Being a “teen mom” is considered taboo in today’s society.
Not only are they often subject of ridicule by their peers, but teen mothers are also less likely to graduate from high school.
In fact, only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school and fewer than 2 percent finish college by age 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But Gisela Soto, a Hopewell High School student and mother of a toddler, is undeterred by such numbers.
In fact, not only is she expecting to graduate, she’s planning to graduate ahead of schedule.
Soto became pregnant just after turning 16. And now, at 17 years old, she has a toddler named Alexander Ramon Soto.
According to Soto, her biggest struggle right now is being a student at school and being a mother as soon as she gets home. Although Soto’s mother takes care of Alexander when Soto is away at school, Soto is a full time mom as soon as she steps foot into her house.
“All of the money I get goes to Alex,” she says, a smile on her face. Her son is her main concern, and her social life comes later.
Having a one-year-old son as a high school student isn’t easy. But, according to Soto, her son does anything but hold her down.
“He is my motivation to get through school and to go to college,” said Soto.
When asked if she ever thought about dropping out, Soto said “No.”
“I never thought about that,” she said. “I want a better life for Alex, so I need to stay in school.”
Soto plans to graduate early this year. Not only would graduating early put her in her “rightful grade,” she said, but it will give her more time to spend with her son.
“I hope Alex grows up to become a respectful and successful man,” she said.
Soto not only has hopes for Alex, but for herself too.
“I plan to do two years of community college before transferring,” she says. “I want to train to become a CIA agent, then to go to a trade school to learn about mechanics.”
Friends who know about Soto’s situation said they admire her for her ability to juggle school life with being a mother.
“Gisela handles school and being a mother better than most teen moms do,” said De’Shawna Jackson, a 12th grader at Hopewell and Soto’s friend.
But close friends aren’t Soto’s only supporters. “I think her work ethic is admirable,” Emily Pigeon, an 11th grader at Hopewell said. “She keeps her grades up and cares for a child at the same time.”
Soto said she does her best to balance everything. Having help from her family helps, she said.
Although Soto said that when she told her mom about her pregnancy “she was pissed,” Soto said her mom ultimately came around.
“She was supportive,” she said. “She assured me that we’d get through it.”
This story was written as a part of the Charlotte Observer’s high school journalism Explorer Post.