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Meet the 20-year-old mom who beat the odds and graduated high school with a two-year-old

Teen pregnancy has detrimental effects on a young mother's career prospects. When Odalis Contreras became pregnant at 16, she did not want to be another statistic.

Meet the 20-year-old mom who beat the odds and graduated high school with a two-year-old
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Odalis Contreras, aged 18, first discovered she was pregnant when she was a sophomore in high school. At the time, her worst fear was becoming another statistic. Most teen moms do not complete their education, drastically affecting their children's ability to access education. Now a mother to a beautiful two-year-old son Angel, Contreras has beaten the odds. She graduated from Arizona State University Prep digital this spring, alongside her toddler. The teen mom attended an in-person ceremony with her family late last month. She now plans to attend community college before transferring to Arizona State in order to complete her undergraduate degree, Good Morning America reports.


"Education is the most important to me because it has a higher chance of taking me out of poverty than anything else," she said in an interview with the news outlet. "If I didn't finish high school or if I don't start college and finish it then I feel like he's going to follow down that path." According to a report by Child Trends, pregnancy is a leading cause behind high school dropouts. The report stated that teen mothers have fewer chances of attaining a high school diploma than teens who did not experience a young pregnancy. A later report reinstated these findings, adding that only 53 percent of women in their 20s who became mothers as teens received a traditional high school degree. Meanwhile, only 17 percent took the GED test to earn their high school diplomas at a later stage in their lives.


Contreras's son Angel was born prematurely on January 4, 2019. As a result, the teen mom missed a month's worth of schooling and subsequently fell behind. In order to catch up with her education, she enrolled in ASU's Prep Digital, an online school founded by Arizona State University. This allowed her to be a full-time student on her own schedule, which meant she could spend the time she needed taking care of her son. Even with the control she had over her schedule, it was not an easy journey.


Throughout the first few months of the course, Contreras barely had any time to sleep. "I didn't sleep for the first four months," she shared. "It was hard. It was mentally draining at points because I didn't know if it was going to be worth it at the end." The young mom added that there were many occasions during her junior and senior years where she just wanted to give up. Nonetheless, she persevered. Karen Sanderson, a learning success coach at ASU Prep Digital, stated, "She was adamant about graduating on time. I told her I could talk to my supervisor about graduating a little bit later than spring 2021. There's no shame in that. And she said, 'No I want to graduate in spring 2021.'"


With Sanderson's help, Contreras was able to build a four-by-four schedule (this meant she would do eight classes per semester—four classes per eight weeks—as well as summer classes) to graduate on time. The learning success coach was a pillar of support for the 18-year-old. She said, "Ms. Sanderson was always on top of my grades, on top of everything. When I wouldn't log into school for just one day she would text me, 'Is everything okay? Did anything happen at home? Are you fine?'" Contreras's family also rallied to support her. "My mom took six months off work to help me take care of Angel," the teen mom explained. "It was hard for her but she loves him so much. She would do anything for him."


Finally, everyone's hard work paid off when Contreras was able to attend her in-person graduation ceremony last month. When it was her turn to collect her diploma, she carried Angel on stage with her. She affirmed, "He deserves it too." Sanderson was deeply moved to see her student graduate. "To actually see her in the flesh, with her tears streaming down and to see how precious Angel was in his little suit with his white tennis shoes... I can't put it into words," she said. "It definitely made my career." In the fall, Contreras will attend community college where she hopes to complete two years before transferring to ASU. At the moment, she is trying to choose between a career in real estate or as a newborn intensive care unit nurse (as Angel was in the NICU himself). "That's in my heart," she said. "That's something I want to do with my heart." The mom who defeated the odds also has words of advice for others, no matter what stage they are at in their lives: "Keep going. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing to better yourself."

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