Student mom to don mortarboard
FARMER’S KORNER – At 17 years old, Summit High School student Veronica Nogueda hadn’t planned on starting her own family. But when she found out last year that she was about to become a new mother, she knew that her life had changed forever.”I was shocked,” the petite, soft-spoken Dillon resident said. “It was not planned at all, and it wasn’t something I wanted at the time, but I decided I was going to take responsibility and have a baby.”She and her boyfriend, Ezequiel Hernandez, married and made their home with Nogueda’s parents. Ten months ago, their daughter Dina Hernandez was born.When Nogueda first made the decision to become a mother, she assumed that she didn’t have many days left as a Summit High School student.
“I was definitely going to drop out and work. I wanted to do something with my life, but at that point, I was confused. I thought the education part of my life was over,” she said.But with the help of Summit County Public Health and Summit School District’s revived infant/toddler childcare center, Nogueda determined to turn herself from a statistic into a success story. And Saturday, she will walk across the stage in the SHS gymnasium to claim her diploma.Lynne Mosbaugh, a nurse with Summit County’s Intermountain Nurse Family Partnership, made regular home visits during and after Nogueda’s pregnancy, helping the overwhelmed teen pause to consider her options.”She helped me set goals and made me see that I could do so many other things. I could be there for my child and have my life as well,” Nogueda said.At the same time, Summit School District assistant superintendent Peggy Kastberg was pulling together the final details to revive an infant/todder childcare center for young children of district employees and students. Since August, the center has bustled with about 10 little ones in a converted classroom at the end of Summit High School’s academic wing, providing prime operating hours and a location for those tied to the school schedule.
Mosbaugh and Kastberg worked with several local agencies to secure scholarship money for Dina to spend her days in the infant/toddler center while Nogueda dug into her text books. Nogueda relied on the bus for transportation to and from school, so the infant toddler center was a major asset, allowing her to drop Dina off and then scurry off to her chemistry class.Nevertheless, being a teen mother, a student and a part-time worker at a local restaurant was a challenge unlike anything Nogueda could have anticipated. On an average day, she would wake up with Dina around 5:30 a.m. (sometimes at the gentle prodding of Nogueda’s mother), feed her, play with her and dress her before heading out to the bus stop a few minutes early, allowing time to buckle Dina into her car seat on the bus.”First semester, it was really hard. That’s the time babies get sick, and I’d have to be up with her at 3 a.m. and be back here at school at 7 a.m. But there were all these people telling me, ‘It’s good to see you here,’ and it helped me realize how important my education is.”Second semester, things became a little easier as Dina grew older and Nogueda enrolled in an internship at the infant/toddler center, where she simultaneously earned credits toward graduation, spent time with her daughter and learned the basics of early childhood development and education.”Being around the kids, getting to know them and seeing how they grow is really something. It’s amazing to see her one week and she can’t walk, and then the next week she can,” Nogueda said.
She struggled some with chemistry, but managed to sort out protons, electrons, acids and bases well enough to earn her last few credits – and the first high school diploma in her family’s history.”I’m studying now,” she said while holding Dina in her lap two weeks ago inside the infant/toddler center. “But it’s a sure thing – I’m graduating. A year ago, I didn’t think this would ever happen, but now it is. And my mom is going to be so happy.”It means a lot to me to have a diploma.”Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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