A teen in Chicago, Illinois, once homeless and pregnant, defied the odds when she graduated high school with honors.
Trameka Pope recently graduated from Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School as a valedictorian, received over $80,000 in scholarships and was accepted to 26 different schools throughout the country. Pope’s impressive educational record is a far cry, however, from the path she traveled to get there.
As a child, she and her family were homeless for a time. During her eighth grade year, the young teen got pregnant and subsequently gave birth to a daughter. Despite the hardships, Pope maintained that she never gave up hope for a bright future.
“I was told that God don't make mistakes and he wouldn't give anyone a child who wasn't ready for one,” she told reporters. Pope soon buckled down and began pushing herself to be great. “I always said that I wanted to make change and I wanted to be in the history books, and I started with myself,” she said.
Pope’s day involves both educational and motherly responsibilities, including taking college prep courses and working at a local grocery store. In order to help her manage her busy life, Chicago Public Schools staff took it upon themselves to assist the teen with going on college tours and applying for scholarships. She also applied for a non-profit program called SGA Youth and Family Services, which helps teenagers make the transition to becoming parents.
“Everyone loves her. She's a people person. She has a sweet heart and kind spirit,” social worker Dawn Jackson said. Jackson said Pope is an example for other teens struggling the way she did throughout her childhood.
“No matter what background you come from, it doesn't matter if you have a child as a teen, no matter what people say about you, you still can, you can make it, and you can become something,” Jackson said.
Though Pope – who will attend Western Illinois University in the fall and pursue a PhD in social work – could have easily been one in four Chicago students who drops out of high school, she said she never allowed herself that option.
“I didn't give up. I pushed myself hard. And my baby motivated me every day because I wanted to provide for her and I also didn't want to be a statistic,” she said.
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