Today, 22-year-old Julianna is confident as a mom and as a person, but she hasn’t always been that way. It has taken time, support, and encouragement for her to see herself for the amazing person she is. As a high school student, the world is hard enough, but Julianna’s world changed dramatically and unexpectedly.
“My life changed directions [when I became pregnant] and I saw things differently. Now, I think, ‘How did I handle all that stress at 16’?”
At the time of her pregnancy, Julianna was a Junior in high school, and she was looking forward to going to college. She visited one university, but she felt like she didn’t belong there as a mom.
Finishing high school was challenging and she felt like quitting many times. She returned to school while still breastfeeding her 3-month-old, Alana, and her only option was to pump in the school bathroom. After two weeks of the grueling work of pumping in an environment that didn’t afford her peace of mind, she stopped. Experiences like this made high school a constant struggle between the mother she wanted to be for Alana and the dreams she had for her education.
During this time in her life Julianna found Teen Success, Inc. Although Julianna’s world was shaken at the time of her pregnancy and after having her daughter, she took a leap of faith and joined the program in 2015. Teen Success, Inc. gave her a safe place to express herself and move through the challenges she was facing as a young mom going through school. “The [Advocates] were very motivating. When I thought, ‘Man, I can’t do [school] anymore.’ They said, ‘No, you’re smart. You can do this.” There were times she wanted to quit school and focus on working, but she found encouragement and support from the program Advocates and was inspired by the other young moms in her group. “I saw other girls who were doing [school and parenting] and I thought, ‘I can do it too.’”
With support from her Advocates and a Teen Success, Inc. Scholarship, Julianna reimagined the future of her education and decided to attend Bakersfield College. During college, she started working at a local restaurant, where she’s a manager today, and took her classes in the evening. After two years, Julianna transferred to CSU Bakersfield with support of a second Teen Success, Inc. Scholarship. In 2021, she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and has been accepted into a competitive Master’s program in Counseling and Psychology at CSU Bakersfield.
Even though Julianna started her journey as a mom differently than she’d expected, her daughter has been her motivation all along the way and she wants to be a positive role model for her. She deals with the same stresses and pressures most mothers do, like feeling like she’s spending too much time working on her studies and not with her daughter. These past years have been intense for her to try to balance it all. “I’m always telling [my daughter], ‘I have homework,’ when she wants to play and I feel bad,” Julianna says. “But now she tells her friends, ‘My mommy graduated college.’ I think she understands that it’s an accomplishment.” Although she made many sacrifices along the way, Julianna is happy to have received her degree and its comforting that her daughter is proud of her and looks up to her.
Beyond High School
Julianna, like most of the young women Teen Success, Inc. serves, have to puzzle through paying for post-secondary education. Figuring out the myriad of services, requirements, scholarships and FAFSA is challenging and their Advocates are essential in helping them come up with a plan that works for their unique situations. Today, Teen Success, Inc. has expanded support for its participants who wish to further their educations by providing educational stipends. If you wish to lean more about this initiative, please click here.
Julianna’s words of advice to other young mothers going through a similar situation are:
“You can do so much more than you think you’re capable of. Look at me, I didn’t think I’d get my B.A. or be going after my Master’s, but here I am. And if you’re a mom and you’re on the fence about the Teen Success program, trust the process, because now I think, ‘what if I hadn’t gone?’.”
After she earns a Master’s, Julianna plans to become a licensed therapist and hopes to work with youth in school or in Juvenile Hall. She’s looking forward to getting married to her fiancé next year and Alana, now 5, will be starting Kindergarten in the fall.