GREENSBORO, NC – Most people might look at Johana Aranda-Lopez and think she's is just like any other high school student. She walks around Grimsley High School, backpack on her shoulders, scrolling through messages on her I-Phone, as she heads to the next class.
But, Johana is a little different. Johana became a teen mom during her sophomore year. Two years later, she's ready to graduate.
“When I got pregnant, it never crossed my mind (that) I’m not going to school,” said Johana. “I’m going to get through this.”
The now 18-year-old said she always tried hard in school, although she wouldn’t classify herself as the perfect student. But, she did keep her grades up, while taking honors classes, working as a waitress in a nursing home and taking care of her now 2-year-old son, Camilo.
“The thoughts that came to my mind was, I’m going to school, I’m going to graduate and I’m going to be the best student I can be.”
At first, Johana admitted, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a mom at such a young age.
“I told my dad, I didn’t want the baby.”
Her father reminded her of the life she was carrying, but told her either way he would support her decision.
“At that moment, I realized well, there is a life inside of me. That’s my baby,” Johana said, adding that after Camilo arrived, “I went through a lot of breakdowns because of that. How could I have thought about doing something like that? Abortion. And now, I see him running around all over the place. My life would be completely different without him.”
A glimpse into her cell phone photo album shows a tiny young boy, with a constant smile plastered across his face. A smile he undeniably got from his mother.
“He’s a troublemaker but he is very smart. He talks a lot. I get home, he’ll ask, ‘where were you?’ I’ll say ‘oh, I was at school.”
The teen explained her aunt helps look after her son while she’s at school. In fact, her entire family helps her continue her education and raise her child.
“I can’t lie. I feel like I would have nothing done this without my family support, especially my mom. Sometimes, I would have an exam the next day and I would have to rest and my mom would come and take care of the baby and she would take care of him,” said Johana. “So, I’m not going to say I did this alone because it’s not true.”
It wasn’t easy for Johana. High school can often be a cruel place, especially for a young pregnant girl.
“All I remember was I would just walk through the hallways, go from one class to another and not think about what other people were saying.”
But, she’ll graduate on June 11th and is prepared to work for a company that will pay for a computer programming degree at Guilford Technical Community College. Afterwards, she plans to save up and return to college to pursue a career as an architect.
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And she’ll do it all while knowing she has a son to raise, a son she wants to make proud.
“I feel like if my son wasn’t here without me now, I would probably wilding out with some friends. So, I feel like having my son at an early age helped me mature.”