Bouncing a toddler on her hip and managing time between studying for her classes and caring for her daughter might not be what a conventional high school senior looks like, but Leona Slim said being a mother in high school has given her the motivation to reach for her dreams.
Slim, whose daughter, Anoel Beatrice, was born in December 2013, will be the student speaker at the Summit High School graduation later this month. The young mom has completed her high school courses at an accelerated pace, and participated in Career and Technical Education classes to pursue her goals of fashion design and merchandising.
“She is my main focus for graduating,” Slim said of Anoel. “I want her to look up to me as much as possible.”
Slim said she was 15 years old when Anoel was born, and impending motherhood took her by surprise. She said she did not know she was pregnant until more than halfway through the pregnancy, giving her even less time to prepare for her daughter’s arrival.
The Teenage Parent Program (TAPP) at SHS allows Slim to bring her daughter to Early Head Start daycare on the Summit campus while Slim is in school.
“TAPP builds so many resources for me,” Slim said. “My teachers are amazing and they are really there for you. All the other girls in TAPP are all there for each other. We all know what each other is going through, we are all in this together.”
For the second half of the day, Slim travels to the CAVIAT campus for the Fashion Design and Merchandising program.
“The hardest part is her not having me there all the time,” Slim said. “That’s what hurts me the most.”
Slim said she tries to explain to her daughter about why she has to go to school and what the benefits will be for both of them.
“When I pick her up every day, I always ask her how her day was,” she said. “I explain to her every day that this is only the beginning.”
She said Anoel likes to be around her even when she does school work.
“If I’m reading or doing homework, she will get her book out and read it or color with a pencil on another notebook, it’s so cute,” Slim said. “I feel like she understands why I go to school.”
Slim said she will even read her school books out loud to Anoel, and show her the pictures in the textbooks.
Juggling homework, classes, post-high school plans and motherhood can be overwhelming at times, Slim said.
“With a 2-year-old now it’s more exhausting,” Slim said. “I am in class 10 hours a day, and when she sees me after class she wants to play. I worry about homework and I worry about wanting to be with her more. It’s a hard balance.”
Slim is raising Anoel as a single mother, which she says doubles the work but also doubles the reward.
“It doubles the stress and the tears, but it’s also twice the hugs, twice the kisses and twice the love,” Slim said. “It pays off.”
Slim said Anoel is too young to understand Mother’s Day yet, but said she loves celebrating.
“Whenever she sees candles she sings happy birthday,” Slim joked.
The two will spend the holiday with family members, probably having an outdoor lunch, Slim said.
“I think Mother’s Day is the best celebration other than her birthday,” Slim said.
After graduation, Slim said she wants to continue with the CAVIAT program for another year before pursuing higher education in the field of fashion design and merchandising. She said she plans to continue to work hard to show her daughter she can accomplish anything she wants.
“I want her to see that no matter what life throws at you, no matter the obstacles, you will get through,” she said.
Slim, who will give a speech at the school’s graduation ceremony May 26, said she wants to speak about overcoming hardships and following goals.
“I want to speak out to everyone that no matter how hard it is, you will get through it,” she said. “I’ve thought about quitting before, I’ve thought that this is just too much, but here I am, just a few weeks from graduation.”