Valerie Zayas/ External Diploma Program Student
I am Valerie Zayas, and I am 27 years old. I grew up in the north end of Hartford, Connecticut. I was a very smart, young girl with a bright future ahead of me. I worked hard in elementary and middle school. I entered Hartford Public High School in 2001 with a positive attitude. I had no worries. By the middle of the school year I tried out for the cheerleading team, and made it. Things were great in my life.
A few months later I received upsetting news. I went for a regular checkup and found out that I was six weeks pregnant. I managed to stay in school throughout my nine months of pregnancy. It wasn’t easy for me to get through my school year but I stayed positive. I gave birth on my 17th birthday to a beautiful baby girl. I was home-schooled for six weeks.
When it was time to return to school, I couldn’t make it back. Even though I had a family who was there for me emotionally, it still wasn’t enough. Both of my parents worked to keep food on the table, and I stayed home and took care of my newborn. It wasn’t easy being a teenage mom, trying to figure out how to raise such a small person alone at such a young age. My daughter’s father decided not to be a part of our lives.
After two years, I had a chance to go back to school, but I didn’t take that road. I chose to get a job, move into my first apartment and start a new relationship. We were on state assistance, which was never my plan but I did what I had to do. Although my boyfriend was a great father to my daughter, after eight years we mutually ended the relationship.
I was a single mom for eight months, and again I had a chance to go back to school, but instead I started working. I chose to hang out with the wrong people, got into trouble, and did things I shouldn’t have done. I started dating a guy I knew in high school. I thought it was a great relationship, but it quickly went from perfect to abusive and controlling. I started to feel afraid, not sleeping at night thinking he would try to hurt me. I felt like I couldn’t make anything of myself, but I always managed to be a great mother and tried to be a good partner to a man who didn’t deserve me.
During the relationship I had a suspicion that I might be pregnant again – it turns out that I was. It wasn’t planned and I thought about getting an abortion. However, I didn’t have the guts to take a child’s life when it wasn’t his/her fault. So I prepared myself for my second child which turned out to be another beautiful baby girl. This opened my eyes. With God’s help I was strong enough to eventually end the relationship even though he stalked me and wanted to kill me in front of my kids.
I eventually bumped into an old boyfriend whom I have known since I was thirteen years old. I believe in God and was raised in the Pentecostal Church. Since God works in mysterious ways, I felt that there is a reason this man walked back into my life. He has been there for me emotionally, physically and financially for almost two years now. My children and I adore him.
In August of 2013 I decided once and for all to go back to school and achieve my goals. There have been some bumps along the way, but I have not let them stop me. In November 2013 I took the GED test and did not pass. I did not let that ruin my life. Instead I remained positive and signed up for the National External Diploma Program. I barely have time for myself or my children. Since my boyfriend is a second-shift worker and I am a full-time student, we barely see each other. I often leave school, bring my boyfriend to work, pick up my youngest from daycare, and then my oldest at the bus stop. Then, there is homework, dinner, showers, and bedtime. By the end of the night I am exhausted but I still have studying to do.
It has not been easy but I have finished my coursework. This June, I will walk across the stage to receive my high school diploma. This is just the beginning for me; I want to be a forensic investigator. I know college will not be easy, but I am a survivor and I will get through it.
I am very proud of what I have accomplished after all that I have been through in my life. I DID IT AND SO CAN YOU!