Mom First. Student Second.

Dec 03, 2014 No Comments by

Brittanee Strode has to balance being a mother to her child Sophia and a teen student at Clark. (Emma Fletcher / The Independent)

Brittanee Strode was only 15 when she found out she was pregnant. She was halfway through her softball season at Heritage High School when she broke the news to her family. Now she’s a 17-year-old Running Start Clark student who juggles caring for her daughter, Sophia; attending class at Heritage; and meeting the demand of two online college classes.

Brittanee is not a typical teen mom. She is on track to beat statistics.

A senior, she will graduate in June with a high school diploma and a jump start on her college career. After high school she hopes to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant and plans to become a Registered Nurse.

Only a third of women who have children before they are 18 earn a high school diploma. Only two percent of teen moms graduate college by the age of 30, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

However, Brittanee is motivated to finish high school and move onto WSUV’s nursing program.

Even after learning she was pregnant, Brittanee was set on her goal to complete Clark courses through Running Start. “It would be better for [Sophia] in the end anyways,” Brittanee said.

Teen pregnancy rates have dropped from their their peak in 1991, but numbers are still high. An unplanned pregnancy can significantly impact the life of a student. One of every ten women drop out of community college due to unplanned birth, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

“The main thing is if they don’t finish college, they’re not going to be able to help their children,” said sociology professor Carlos Castro, who specializes in marriage and family issues.


Sophia turns one on Dec. 3. Her mother says she is beginning to walk and is now “getting into everything.” (Emma Fletcher / The Independent)

Brittanee said it will be a challenge after moving out of her mother’s home and into her own place after graduating high school. She will be juggling a job, full-time school and motherhood.

After the initial shock of her pregnancy her family was excited and supportive. They came to her doctor appointments and threw a baby shower. Her mother, sister and family friends watch her daughter when she goes to her first-period class.

“Becoming a mom came really naturally to me,” Brittanee said. “We have so many siblings and we’ve always grown up around kids.”

Her fiance, Jesse, also helps out financially, paying for her phone bill and sharing expenses for Sophia. He plans on paying her car insurance once she needs it for school according to Brittanee.

Most teen moms will struggle to succeed without support from their family or friends because they have no resources, according to Castro. They might not have money, a job or a car–key things young mothers need to provide for their children. Without support young mothers are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Staying at home all day watching their children can be isolating, Castro said.

After Brittanee gave birth, other girls from her class who also became pregnant reached out to her for advice on pregnancy, parenting and relationships.




“The reason why people delay marriage and having kids, now a days, is because they go to college. If you go to school, you’re more likely to make more money,” Castro said. Young parents who do not have help or support are unlikely to finish college and end up in poverty, and so are their children. “That’s one of the biggest problems,” Castro said.

Not only are young mothers affected by teen pregnancy but so are their children, according to Castro. “The babies are more likely to be undernourished, for example, or not properly taken care of,” Castro said.

Taking online classes allows Brittanee to stay at home with her daughter during the day. She spends the day playing with her, reading to her and taking her to the park.

Brittanee has about two hours to work on homework while Sophia naps during the day. “I cram to get my stuff done,” Brittanee said. Sophia is starting to walk and can be distracting. “Now she’s almost one and she gets into everything,” Brittanee said.

In the spring, however, classes like chemistry and anatomy & physiology will require her to be on campus. Obstacles she will face include finding a way to feed her daughter who is still breastfed and paying for car expenses.

Brittanee doesn’t really feel like she’s missing out on the high school experience. “I used to go to football games and it was fun but once you have a baby, it’s kind of different for me at least,” Brittanee said. “I’d much rather be home with my daughter than be out at a football game with a bunch of people. I just like spending my time with her.”




The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy according to Castro. To pin-point exactly why teen pregnancy is so high in the U.S. is a complicated answer with many variables.

“The europeans do not have a high problem with teenage pregnancy, for the most part. They do get condoms or the pill when they are in high school, I think they even get, in some places, the morning-after pill,” Castro said.

Countries like France and Switzerland are more secular, according to Castro.

“Europe had a break away from religion and the embrace of science, so they are a secular society,” Castro said. “And [the U.S.] is still puritan in many ways.”

Having Sophia at such a young age motivates Brittanee to finish school and do well for herself. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a parent until you are one. I definitely wouldn’t change anything. I love being a mom.”


About the author

Steven Cooper is The Independent's news editor and a second year Clark student. Prior to working as News Editor, Steven served as online and copy editor at The Independent.
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