Good can come out of a nightmare - Casey-Ann Brooks triumphs after teenage pregnancy
Like so many before her, Casey-Ann Brooks was a bright spark, full of spunk and loaded with potential. Then suddenly, her life was turned inside out when after just one sexual encounter with her high-school boyfriend, she became pregnant at the impressionable age of 16.
Shattered and broken, Brooks said she was told by her baby's father to have an abortion, as he could not afford a child.
Rejected and confused, she said there was no way out of her dilemma, and it weighed heavily on her mind.
"Things were so bad for me back then, as I had gotten pregnant around exam time. Me, pregnant at 16; that was not part of the plan, yet there I was. It was a very stressful and depressing time for me," recalled Brooks.
"I kept it a secret as best as I possibly could. Family and friends were not aware of this situation until around five to six months into my pregnancy, and they were all very disappointed. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to stay focused on my examinations, and I gave birth to my daughter in October of 2012."
Brooks attended one of the most prominent high schools in Spanish Town and in spite of proving she had plenty potential academically, it was the social side of things that proved a much tougher challenge, as she was constantly in fights, which got her suspended from school in one instance.
"However, the teachers saw so much potential in me and gave me several chances to redeem myself. That was how I came to realise that there is value in people, even those who others see as a waste of time," said Brooks.
Determined, she graduated a pregnant teen but with eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, which was the springboard for her future success.
In 2012, she gave birth to a daughter. It was a seminal moment in her life; a significant period that shifted her focus completely, according to Brooks, making her more aware and a take-off point towards greatness.
A TEACHER IN THE MAKING
"After giving birth, I began to realise my transition and began focusing on how to become a better person for my daughter to emulate. I always had a passion for education and children, and becoming a mother also revealed that I really have the attributes to become a teacher," said Brooks.
So in 2013, Brooks pursued a career in teaching - at the primary level - and eventually attended The Mico University College in Kingston.
Now with the added burden of a young baby and no support from the father, it was her mother and aunt who stood with her while she embarked on her studies.
"I didn't have the fee to pay for my tuition, but I decided I would not sit and wait for a miracle to happen, so I went ahead and took a loan from Students' Loan Bureau. There were several nights I left school at 10 p.m. and even spent nights over to ensure my course works were completed. It was my sacrifice, as I could not afford to fail," said the 21-year-old.
"I had a goal in mind to complete my studies and here I am today, I just completed my teaching practicum at Wolmer's Preparatory School and I am extremely proud of myself for representing both myself and school in a positive manner."
... Don't give up on life, advises teen mother-turned-teacher
While not condoning teenage pregnancy, Casey-Ann Brooks said for those who have been naive and fallen prey to sexual urges, she was proof that good can come out of a nightmare situation.
She did not give up on life, even after finding herself pregnant and alone at age 16. She pressed on in spite of her adversities to a teaching career.
"Becoming a teen mother allowed me to unfold my true potential. It wasn't what I would have liked ... . But the good in it was that it offered me something I was lacking. God saw this as a way to teach me how to become responsible and a role model for others to emulate," said the young mother and teacher.
"There are many young women who would love to hear stories similar to theirs to know that there are women willing to empower and motivate them to their maximum potential. Now, I'm happy about my daughter, that in spite of everything, I am still moving ahead."
Brooks is set to graduate from The Mico University College, Kingston, in December - an achievement she said would have been unlikely had she given up after becoming pregnant.