During my senior year of college at Hampton University, I became a twenty-one-year-old pregnant preacher’s daughter. At the time, there was so much anticipation from family and friends regarding my upcoming graduation. But, there wasn’t much excitement about my becoming a mom. My loved ones made plans to attend my graduation ceremony, a ceremony I wasn’t even sure that I would attend. My due date and graduation date both fell on May 10th.

I discovered that I was pregnant the day before my classes started my senior year. Even though I was considered grown, being twenty-one years old and two semesters away from receiving a degree, I was mortified. When I informed my family I was pregnant, they treated me like a teenage mom dropping out of high school.

Even though the pregnancy was unplanned, I looked forward to becoming a mom, but unfortunately, my family and friends did not share my enthusiasm. As I prepared for the greatest gift in my life–the birth of my child, suppressed my joy and bore shame for getting pregnant. No one rubbed my belly, accompanied me to doctor’s appointments or just celebrated the little things along the way. Then, one day, I went to one of my favorite restaurants to pick up food, and a young cashier inquired about my pregnancy. I shared the shame I felt due to my family and friends’ reactions to my pregnancy. She proceeded to tell me about her multiple miscarriages and the recent loss of yet another baby. She told me that I should not be ashamed because I am blessed to bring a life into this world. That was the day my perception of my pregnancy changed forever.

Even though the negative comments from my family and friends still hurt, I no longer let them affect how I felt about my pregnancy. God chose me to give birth to my son. The need for validation shifted from my family and friends to God. It was time to heal from heartache and drop the guilt of being a young, unwed mother. I chose God and accepted the path He chose for me.

My son finally arrived–and not on my graduation day. I gave birth ten days after walking across the stage to receive my degree. Three months later, I started graduate school three months and became an advocate for young mothers.

Sharing my experience of being a young, Black mom helped me heal and control the narrative. I am resilient. I am educated. I am unashamed. My story inspired others to overcome the stigmas and obstacles of young motherhood and reach their academic goals. And that inspired me to start the Ozzie and Me Scholarship Foundation. The foundation awards an annual $1000 scholarship to a young mother enrolled full-time in a graduate or undergraduate degree program. Through the Ozzie & Me Scholarship Foundation, I hope that young moms are inspired and supported in accomplishing their goals and combating stereotypes of being a young mother.

Being a single young mother is hard, and it’s undoubtedly not something that I would encourage anyone. Still, our experiences are just as beautiful, authentic and deserving as anyone else.

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