Teen mom moving up - Pregnant at 12, made a ward of the state but still aiming for the stars
At 14 years old, Tasha Brown* is excelling academically at one of Jamaica's top secondary schools and is a star athlete, but she carries a secret she has not shared with her classmates: she became a mom at 12 years old and every day she heads home to a state facility where she juggles her studies while caring for her son.
"Nobody knows that I am at a facility, neither do they know that I have a baby," Tasha told The Sunday Gleaner, as she outlined a life which seemed destined to failure when she got pregnant, but which is now poised for great things.
Tasha did not start school formally until she was eight years old, but despite the late start, her teachers thought she was exceptional.
"I didn't know that I could read, but in the first week, we were doing a reading test and on the Friday, everyone was supposed to go up to the class and read, and I had been practising from the Monday that I got it, and by the Friday, I was able to read it by myself.
"My teacher was very proud of me, so she actually gave me special attention to help me to go further, because she saw that I could do better," Tasha told The Sunday Gleaner.
Tasha continued to excel throughout primary school and was the prefect for most of her classes.
"My teacher helped me, but I didn't think it was really enough, so I would ask persons questions and they would try to help me, and I would go and try to do it myself.
"I am a fast learner, so when I was taught things, I just go home and I read it over," added Tasha.
Given her aptitude, it was a shock to many when she became pregnant at just 12 years old.
"I was at school when I found out I was pregnant. I did a pregnancy test there and they took me from there to CISOCA (the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse). When I went there, they also did a pregnancy test and they took me to St Ann's Bay Hospital, and I was there for a couple of days until they brought me here," she said in reference to the girls' home where she now lives.
For Tasha, the memories of the male who got her pregnant and the reactions of those around her, including her mother, are ones she does not want to share at this time.
She skipped past those memories as she told our news team that despite being pregnant she was able to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and was placed at one of the top secondary schools in St Mary, based on an average of more than 90 per cent.
But being pregnant, she was unable to attend her primary school graduation or start secondary school as scheduled. "I was shaken, I was also embarrassed and I was also afraid until I finally got over it," she said of the pregnancy.
"Every day I used to cry until I said 'no, you are in a situation, things happen for you to learn from them, so you have to go through it'," added Tasha, who sat out grades seven, eight, and most of grade nine before enrolling at the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation to continue her schooling.
"I didn't understand most of the work that I got, because it was work from grade seven, eight and nine. When I went there, it was one month away from GNAT [Grade Nine Achievement Test], so I didn't get much of that teaching, but I also put my best foot forward and I studied whatever I had, and I used my knowledge to understand what I could, and I got a top girl award," she said.
In addition to getting a top girl award, Tasha was also placed at a leading Corporate Area high school. She is now in grade nine and continuing her trend of excelling academically.
"The first exam that I did, I did very well on that exam and I was shaken, because I didn't expect it," said the teen mom whose favourite subject is mathematics.
"I have classes and in the evening I have to go to track and field and I still have to study. But what I tell myself is that I have to do an activity. I understand that I still have to study for an exam, but I have to learn how to balance things, because in the future I am going to have to learn how to balance [my son] and also work, so I have to practise from now," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Tasha wanted to become a dentist initially because she loves chemistry; however, she feels that tackling the sciences in upper school will be too much for her, and so she started considering law.
"I love to talk and I love to use big words, so everyone was saying that is the career for me to choose, but my mind is drifting away from law because everybody wants to be a lawyer.
"I love to do things that are odd, so what I am doing now is that I am going on the Internet and I am doing personality tests, so that they can choose which field I am best at, and I am trying to find the right one, but I'm still searching," said Tasha.
*Name changed on request