Your parents told you how precious you were from birth. They dressed you up and paraded you around. They doted. They cheered. They loved. They told you, “You are an amazing creature, and you can do anything you set your mind to. Dream big. The world is yours.” They praised despite working two jobs each. They tried to give you everything even while they had almost nothing.
So you set goals, you joined the soccer team, and cheerleading and numerous social clubs. You studied. You worked. And all the while you continued to dream. You’d be a doctor. No, maybe you’d be a Lawyer. Or, heck, maybe you’d be President.
One day, you met a boy you liked. He was just so dreamy, so handsome and confident, and he made you feel like everything in the world wasn’t just possible, it was probable. You went out here and there, and then you went steady. You realized that for the first time in your life, you were in love. The real deal. And after dating this same handsome, confident, life-affirming, world-shaking boy for an entire school year, you decide to give him the most cherished thing you possess in your young life. It’s wonderful.
Life is what happens...
A few months later, the world twists and flips. The floor drops from under you. You are utterly and completely lost. You’re pregnant. You’re only 16. You’re watching your dreams evaporate.
And that handsome, confident boy won’t give you the time of day.
After struggling, debating, wondering and crying, you decide to go through with the pregnancy. Nine months pass, the baby is born. Your parents can’t feed another hungry mouth. They tell you that you need to get a job, that you made this choice, and you will be the one who deals with it. That well of praise seems to run dry. You miss weeks of school. You do manage to graduate from high school, but college isn’t even a possibility. Life is bleak. You’re struggling, working hard at the local 7-11 whenever you can fit in a shift, but childcare is expensive. Life is more expensive than you ever knew. You want more from life. You know that education is the way to get there.
Dreams are attainable
One morning, a rushed breakfast and your next shift behind the counter, there’s a knock on the door. You answer. You don’t know her yet, but this is Julie Candela. Julie looks at you warmly. She’s a little like a guardian angel, but not Touched By An Angel kind. No, Julie’s more like Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life, grounded and earthly. Julie is the Executive Director of the SPROUT program and Baldwin Wallace University. She has spent years and years focused on new parents just like you, and she’s already helped hundreds of single moms get an education and learn important life skills. She’s spent her life getting to know you and others in your situation.
Julie gives you a pamphlet. You look it over. There are girls in its pages that look like you. But they’re smiling. You can’t remember the last time you did that. For real. Julie smiles at you. You can tell that she relishes the chance to smile with you. She takes you by the hand, and you two, plus baby, go for a walk.
“What if I told you that anything and everything is still possible for you? What if I told you that you are still an amazing creature who can do anything you set your mind to? What if I told you that you can still dream big? Your life doesn’t have to be a day-in, day-out struggle just to survive. You can break out of this cycle,” Julie says.
Your eyes flood with tears. “I thought it was too late,” you say.
Julie just shakes her head. “No,” she says. “It never is.”