Teen mother balances preemie baby and schooling
June 27, 2022
Emma Barrera Grade: 12 School: Visalia Independent Charter Study District: Visalia Unified School District ACSA region: 11 When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, Emma Barrera was preparing for life as a teenage mother. She was five months pregnant with a baby girl. Two months later, Emma was in a car crash that led to an emergency C-section at 28 weeks and the premature birth of her daughter, Olivia. Thankfully, Emma and Olivia recovered, and Emma enrolled at Visalia Charter Independent Study. With the help of teachers and staff, Emma balanced motherhood and her schoolwork with incredible grace. And with little Olivia as her motivation, Emma graduated from high school a semester early. When you found out you won the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award, what was your reaction? I was super surprised. And I thought it was something so small. And then my teacher was like, ‘No, you don’t understand. It’s a big opportunity.’ And once I learned more about it, I was really grateful. And it was so unexpected.
Can you explain what it’s like giving birth and raising a child in the middle of a pandemic? I was really grateful for the people around me and my family. On May 21, 2020, I was in a car accident and we ended up going to the hospital. And I ended up having an emergency C-section. It was really traumatic and really scary. My baby was in the NICU. And that was the hardest part — seeing my baby, not by my side, but in a little machine that was taking care of her. I couldn’t even hold her for the first 27 hours because of just how small she was. She was only 2 pounds 12 ounces and 15 inches long.
You recently graduated early. How did you manage the balancing act of motherhood and education? Just being a mom in general has pushed me so much. It gives me a reason to do everything that I do. I push myself so much more to do the things that I didn’t expect of myself. I wanted to graduate early. And I’m grateful for all of the support that I had around me and everyone who was willing to help me.
What role has your school community played in your success? They played a big role in my success. During my Zoom classes, I had one teacher who would sing to my baby just so I could take a test. Teachers helped me when I was late on work. Just the whole experience with all of my teachers, everyone that has helped me and pushed me through these two years that I have been with them.
For students who are facing similar challenges, what would your advice be for them? All of our experiences in life are all different. And anything difficult you go through in life, just know it gets better. I promise you they do get better. It may feel like the end of the world, but I promise you, you’ll have better days and you’ll get through it.
Emma Barrera gave birth to daughter Olivia via emergency C-section after being involved in a car crash.
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