Lake Norman & Mooresville

Teen mom: 'Everybody told me it was the end'

Hawthorne High student Olivia Leverette, 17, remembers crying the day a doctor revealed she was 16 weeks pregnant.

"Everybody told me it was the end," she says. "I wouldn't be able to go to school, I wouldn't accomplish anything. I was going to be a statistic."

Next week, Olivia will prove them wrong by graduating a year earlier than expected - after being voted "most dependable," "most successful" and "most goal-oriented."

She has not one, but two multiyear scholarships, and an internship this summer working for the police department.

Her dream is to be either a homicide detective or a judge, so she'll start classes this fall at UNC Charlotte, majoring in criminal justice. Then, she says, it will be on to law school.

Somewhere in between, her daughter, Azariah, will start first grade.

How Olivia has managed it all marvels even the school's principal, Tracey Pickard.

"She gets up every morning at the crack of drawn, takes care of her child, comes to school on time at 7 a.m., stays a full day, and, even on bad days, she still comes out on top," says Pickard.

"What else can she face in life that she can't get through? She simply refuses not to succeed."

Communities in Schools helped with a teen-parenting program that included child care for 11-month-old Azariah. Olivia also has the support of her parents, Alfreida and David, and a younger brother, Harrison, 13, who still lives at home. (The family of Azariah's father is also involved in her upbringing.)

Alfreida was there when the doctor told Olivia she was pregnant. At first, the mother says, she almost fainted, partially sliding out of her chair. Then she cried. "Because I saw her (Olivia) crying," she explained.

It was the last thing she expected from a quiet child who family members jokingly accused of not knowing how to speak.

However, Olivia was more worried about her father's reaction. Both her parents are in their 50s, and everybody in the family admits dad is as traditional as they come.

"When the doctor told me, I just kept screaming, 'What's my daddy going to say? What's my daddy going to say?' That's all I said for an hour."

Alfreida says it definitely strained Olivia's relationship with her father, who had big dreams for his little girl.

"Before this, the two of them were inseparable. I mean, they pushed me to the side," she says. "He needed his own time to heal in his own way."

In the meantime, she says Olivia has changed. The shy kid in the family is now outgoing, laughs more and says what's on her mind.

Alfreida credits Olivia's baby.

Olivia agrees. In fact, she says everything that has happened to her in the past year is because of Azariah.

Not all of it was good, she concedes.

A lot of her friends abandoned her, because their parents considered her a bad influence. Even some members of her own family stopped speaking to her, she says.

"I felt abandoned," Olivia says. "But then I saw Azariah's face that first time and I realized it wasn't just me anymore. I had to stop thinking about just myself, because there was someone I had to make a better life for. To do that, I needed a way out."

So here she is less than a year later, graduating early, headed for college and dreaming of being a homicide detective, of all things.

Azariah is going to be right there with her.

That name, by the way, is Hebrew.

Translation: "Helped by God."

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