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Yuba City teen mom leaves the stereotypes behind
Alyssa Garnica was determined not to become a statistic.
When she learned she was pregnant at 17, Garnica was adamant about graduating from Yuba City High School with her friends. She planned to go to college and no unexpected challenges would get in the way, she said.
"I really wanted to show everyone I could get a diploma and have a kid at the same time," she said.
After giving birth mid-year to her daughter, Amelia Merida, Garnica graduated with nearly all A's in 2011, and after a semester off, she enrolled at Yuba College this spring to become a firefighter.
"It pushes you more, because you want to do better for your child," she said.
Garnica was recognized on Friday at a luncheon in Sacramento for her successes and potential with a $1,000 college scholarship through Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and its Teen Success program.
Garnica joined the program for young mothers before her daughter was born. Today, she is one of a dozen mothers ages 15-19 who meet weekly for family planning, parenting education, and emotional and financial support.
As the name implies, the class aims for the success of its members.
With no intervention, almost one in three women whose first birth occurred before age 17 has a second birth within 24 months. And two out of three teen mothers will never receive a high school diploma.
During the history of the Teen Success program, 96 percent of participants have maintained their family size, more than 90 percent graduate high school or receive a GED and two-thirds pursue some sort of post-secondary education.
"You have to do so many things and people judge you, that you have a kid and you can't do it all," Garnica said. "I just do as much as I can."
At Teen Success she can talk to other young mothers about the challenges of single parenting and get advice on everything from thumb-sucking to potty training, she said.
"Most of them are single moms, and now that I'm a single mom, I see them go through everything and they are so strong, it makes me want to be that mom."
Vi Gonzalez, health educator and Teen Success facilitator, said Garnica is a mentor for younger mothers.
"She comes with her stories, and with her energy," she said. "I am so proud of her."
Garnica and Amelia's father, who she married when she learned she was pregnant, are going through a divorce. He still sees Amelia, but Garnica does most of the parenting on her own in addition to continuing her education.
Garnica's average day starts at 6 a.m., in time to make it to Yuba College by 7 a.m. after cleaning and feeding her daughter and readying her for the day. She took 15 general education units in spring, is enrolled in summer school and will be back full time in the fall.
"I thought high school was hard — college is harder," Garnica said. "Summer classes are condensed and I come home and do my homework while she (Amelia) is running around, playing her music and shaking her butt."
In the evenings, Garnica takes Amelia for a run in her stroller before bath time and more homework. She said she has learned a lot about herself in the last two years.
"I'm stronger than people think I am. I'm smarter than people think I am," she said.