Madison B. 

English Degree Program, Minor in Political Science 

"When I was a teenager, I never wanted to have children. I didn’t think it was the right decision for me because I had big aspirations for my future. I was worried that I wasn’t cut out to be the right kind of parent. But when I was eighteen, I met someone who convinced me, in more than one way, to give up parts of who I was. I surrendered myself to please him. I gave up going to college in another state to stay home with him. I abandoned my family and my friends. I gave up my body autonomy and soon enough fell pregnant. Five days before my twentieth birthday I gave birth to my daughter. Having my daughter changed my life. It was in that moment I realized I couldn’t continue to surrender myself if I wanted to be a good person for her. I left the abusive situation I was in and took her with me. For a year or so I struggled as a single mother. I felt that I was being suffocated and couldn’t find the air under my wings to take flight. I switched from entry-level job to entry-level job never truly feeling accomplished. My dreams to do great things seemed to be fleeting and I longed for a chance to take back control of my life. As I struggled to pay bills and provide, I made the decision to go to college for myself and for my child. The hunt for a school was made easy by UMSL. It was close enough to home that I could still accept help from my family, yet it was far enough away that I could be independent. I was able to secure one of the two-bedroom apartments for my daughter and myself at Mansion Hill. We moved the weekend before classes started in August 2017. Juggling school, work, and parenthood was one of the hardest undertakings I had ever done. Many nights I spent crying over my homework, over bills, over parenting decisions I had made. Alone, I tried to navigate adulthood and manage the load of a full-time college student. Oftentimes when I laid in my bed at night, I considered what it would be like to be a normal college student. I wanted to stay in a dorm and be able to go to events on campus without worrying about finding a babysitter. I wanted to join a club or a sorority and feel like the other students around me. I sometimes felt singled out, a lone parent on a large campus of kids whose loads would always look lighter than mine. Then I received an email to my UMSL email about UCDC. I had known that UMSL campus had a child center on campus, but I had always assumed that sending my daughter there would be out of the budget. But the amazing staff at UCDC helped me work through the Triton Care fund paperwork and allowed me to put my daughter into an amazing school that would have otherwise been out of the question for her. I look back on my life and the rollercoaster that has been my journey with parenthood and college. I am one semester away from graduation and it has been a long four years. I am finishing my degree in English with a minor in political science and now I have dreams to continue my education at law school. Who I am now would not be possible if not for UMSL. Before I started this journey, those around me doubted what I was capable of, as did I. I thought that parenthood had stopped me from accomplishing my own dreams and that the struggles of being a single mother would restrict what I was able to do, but UMSL made it possible for me. With every semester my advisor and my professors always treated me just the same as everyone else yet maintained understanding for the uncertainties that come with children. If not for the opportunities UMSL gave me, I would never have become a college graduate. If not for UCDC my daughter would not be so incredibly social and smart. To the amazing teachers and staff there, I owe them great thanks. Now I am in the most loving relationship I’ve ever known. My family and I live in a house that we own. I plant in my garden on the weekends and write essays for my classes during the week. I pick my daughter up from UCDC and she tells me stories about her friends and her day. We are all so incredibly fortunate and happy. If you had asked me if I imagined my life looking like this six years ago, I would’ve never believed you. Choosing UMSL was single-handedly the best decision I ever made for myself. Since the day I set foot on campus and made the decision that this was going to be my school, my life has been in an upward momentum that doesn’t end. Although the uphill fight was sometimes hard, the view from the top has been worth every struggle. Sometimes I just sit back and imagine the day I receive my diploma, the day I spent the last four years fighting for, and I will know that this is exactly what I was meant to do."