Meet Shaleaka

My name is Shaleaka, I am 21 years old and I am a single mother raising a 2 year-old daughter named Sean’na. Aside from being a mom I’m a full-time student at Bunker Hill Community College. When I first found out I was pregnant I kept it to myself for a little bit because I was thinking about my options and what I would have to sacrifice. I was the girl who wanted to be able to take care of my self before I had to deal with the obstacles that come with carrying, having and raising a child. Things didn’t work out as I had planned and I had Sean’na my senior year of high school in January.

Things got even tougher for me because I could not continue to work and I was renting out a room that was too small for our belongings and us. When Sean’na was only one month, we had to move into a teen shelter in Springfield Mass, which also made finishing school even harder. I was allowed to continue with school while living out side of Malden because of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. I waited to the last-minute to open up and explain my situation to my teacher because I didn’t like anyone knowing about my personal life. This made it hard for some of them to approve for me to leave for the lasts quarter to go on internship. That’s why it’s always important to keep a boned or have an open mind when it comes down to working and communicating with your teachers. I had to do a lot more than an average high school student did and although it was extremely difficult and stressful I was able to graduate on time at MHS, class of 2010.

During the past two years since graduation, I have lived in 3 different shelters, which was easier said than done. When I arrive at a shelter some of the residents didn’t like me because I kept to myself. Although I was being consider an independent young adult I still had to follow rules. I had to complete chores every night, I had a curfew, mandatory meeting twice a week, over night only on the weekend and some holidays if approved. Some shelters don’t allow visitor but the ones that did only allowed two visitors at a time for up to 3 hours a day, five days a week and they was not allowed in the bedrooms. I also got into altercations with other residents and staff. My belongings and food also got stolen from time to time. Filling out housing applications was like a daily activity no matter if you wanted to live in the areas that were available or not.

I got offered housing vouchers more than once but I couldn’t accept them because my name was being used for utilities that were not being paid off from 2004-2009. Because of the outstanding debt I felt like I wasted my time. I had set so many goals for myself and couldn’t accomplish them because of what my parents had to do to care for my siblings and me. I was angry, upset, and was ready to give up. There was no one for me to turn to for help or to even tell me what to do. I had to work in the summer and use most of my scholarship money for college to pay the debt off and after two long years I did. After all the moving and three long years of not having a stable place, January 2012 I finally got my own place. Being able to provide a stable, clean, organized, safe place for my daughter and my self makes me happy, but even now it is still not that easy.

I want to make it clear that I NEVER EVER EVER planned to have kids before I went to college. I was on birth control so I thought I didn’t need to use a condom. I tried a bunch of different types of birth control because I didn’t like the way some of them made me feel or did not remember to take my pills. I didn’t know that it takes about 30 days for birth control to be effective once you start it. I conceived my daughter within these first 30 day. Now, no matter what I use a condom because I had to sacrifice a lot for one child just to make sure we was getting by and could not see my self getting by with another.

A lot of people say they want to give their child what they don’t have, but I really meant it from day one. My father is in and out of my life and I feel that my parents did not make this one of their priority. My daughter’s father being in her life is one of the many priorities that I have in mind to better my daughter’s life regardless of the feelings I have towards him. Two years went by and although we keep in touch with each other, he is still not in our daughter’s life. I want my daughter to always feel like she is safe, have supportive and people watching out for her. Without her father or his family in the picture, my family in then out and not to many stable people who I trust, leaves me responsible for her all the time, with no break which is still overwhelming after doing it for two years.

Growing up in my family, we’ve all been through stuff that made it hard to know what we wanted to do, where we wanted to be. There was a lot of arguing, smoking, drinking, and other things that interfered with my siblings and I getting the attention that was needed. This is not the environment I will have my daughter grow up in.  I want her to grow up more successful, with fewer struggles. I will do anything to avoid my daughter from experiencing what I had to as a child and a teenager. But achieving all of these things for my daughter would have been so much easier in five or even ten years, when I had my degree, a place of my own that I chose, and had the time to take care of myself.

We’re all still young, and teenagers are going to be teenagers. To have that taken away from you because you have to take care of a child is tough, long-lasting, and takes a lot of effort when your still getting your life together. If you think you got your life together as a teen think again. And I would be more than happy to help you realize that you do not. Nobody has their life together as a teen and no one really expected teenagers to. A lot of people tell me and have told me when I was a teenager that I’m mature for my age. Even then and now my life is not together I’m just getting started and it doesn’t come easy. I had to give up so many things and I will continue to do so for the benefit of my daughter. Yes I’m in school and work when am not. I also have problems with my health, I don’t eat the way I should, and I need to talk to a professional about things that is hard to just talk about but it all comes last. Take time to stop, think, and use it. I don’t regret my daughter but I do look back and think things would be different. I think about all the things I could have been getting done and where I would be if I didn’t have to sacrifice as much as I did.