When Arizona teenager Odalis Contreras walked up to receive her high school diploma this spring, her 2-year-old son was right beside her.
The 18-year-old chose life for her son when she became pregnant her sophomore year, Live Action News reports. Though her education journey was difficult, Contreras said her son is worth all the sacrifices that she made.
“There were so many times where I just didn’t want to keep going and I just kept seeing him there laying down and he didn’t ask to be here, and I just want to give him the best life that I can give him,” she told ABC 15.
Contreras gave birth to her son, Angel, in January 2019. Because he was born prematurely, she said she missed a whole month of school and fell behind. She said she was afraid that she would never finish her classes on time or go to college.
“If I didn’t finish high school or if I don’t start college and finish it, then I feel like he’s going to follow down that path,” Contreras said.
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Then, her mother took six months off work to help her babysit, and she found an online school, ASU Prep Digital through Arizona State University, with a flexible class schedule, according to the report.
Still, finishing high school on-time was difficult. Contreras said she worked on her school work while Angel was sleeping at night and spent the daytime raising him.
“I didn’t sleep for the first four months,” she said. “It was hard. It was mentally draining at points because I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it at the end.”
But it was.
She said having Angel walk by her side at graduation was meaningful because “he deserves it, too.”
“Education is the most important to me because it has a higher chance of taking me out of poverty than anything else,” she told Good Morning America.
Most importantly, she said she wants to be a good mother and a good example to her son.
Contreras said she plans to attend college and, inspired by her son, she hopes to become a nurse who works with newborns in intensive care.