By Ashley Hocking
For most students, the beginning of the school year is a time to buy new clothing, try out for fall sports, and take new classes. For junior Karissa Aldrich, it was time to reveal a secret she kept throughout the summer.
On July 29, she revealed on Facebook that she was pregnant. Aldrich is one of two students who have made their teenage pregnancies public.
“I was already showing before school, and I was scared, so I was just like, ‘I gotta do it’ and got it over with,” Aldrich said. “A lot of people messaged me individually and told me how proud they were of me. So that made me feel really good about coming back to school.”
A few weeks later, she posted an ultrasound and announced she is having a girl.
Though her family was shocked initially, they fully supported Aldrich as she weighed her options.
“Now I’m really excited, and I’ve grown to actually feel the love and compassion of a mom toward her child,” Aldrich said. “I don’t think that I would give her up.”
Though her family has embraced her pregnancy, others haven’t. Some of her friends stopped talking to her and the father of the baby is no longer in her life.
After the initial shock of finding out she’d be a teenage mother wore off, Aldrich buckled down and decided to graduate a year early. In addition to the heightened workload of junior and senior level required courses, Aldrich is taking Pre Med 1 and 2 this year while working a part time job at Border Bandidos.
She plans on doing a nursing internship this spring after her baby is born.
Next fall, Aldrich plans on attending college and having her older sister, a stay-at-home mother of three, take care of her baby while she attends classes.
“We’re gonna be running around everywhere with [the baby],” Teresa Aldrich, Karissa’s mother, said. “I love to have little kids around. They’re awesome.”
Senior Samantha Zuniga faces a similar ordeal to Aldrich. Zuniga is also pregnant with a baby girl.
When Zuniga first found out the news, she said her parents were not supportive. Zuniga’s older sister and LHS graduate, Mayra Zuniga, thought it was a joke initially.
“They didn’t expect it at all,” Mayra Zuniga said. “I was always the black sheep in the family, so it was kind of confusing for everybody.”
Zuniga has since moved in with the father of her baby and boyfriend, Jordan White. White graduated from LHS in 2011.
After telling their families about the baby, Zuniga decided it was time to tell her peers.
Like Aldrich, she posted about her pregnancy on Facebook. Both have shared images of ultrasounds online.
“I really don’t care if I get judged because I personally don’t find anything wrong with it if you’re going to be there for your kid, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a sin or anything, so I decided to share that with friends and family,” Zuniga said. “Everyone has their own right to think what they want, but I’m not going to let it bother me because I know how I feel about it, and I don’t think it’s wrong.”
Zuniga’s friends stepped up to the plate.
“At first, they were there for me a lot and that helped me get through it. They always wanted to know updates about the baby,” Zuniga said. “It’s nice to have people there to talk to whenever I feel down.”
After thinking over the situation, Zuniga’s parents have grown more supportive, and she said they plan to begin accompanying her to doctor appointments with White and his mother.
“It happened and there’s nothing we can do but be there for her. I get to thinking about it everyday though,” Mayra Zuniga said. “I think she can still do everything she wanted before the baby and after. She’s always been very determined and strong willed. She can do anything.”
The positivity from her family, friends and White’s family have motivated Zuniga to see her pregnancy in a positive light.
“[Being pregnant] makes me want to graduate early. It makes me want to have a good career and be able to provide for my baby,” Zuniga said. “I’ll have a lot more responsibility.”
Zuniga intends to graduate at semester and begin attending Johnson County Community College this spring. White will begin Trade School in the beginning of 2014. While Zuniga and White attend classes, White’s mother will take care of the baby.
“I am very proud of her for graduating early, because it allows her to get a jump start on her life,” White said. “That gives us more time to take care of our baby and get both of ours lives on track.”
At this point in time, both girls are in their second trimester of their pregnancies and will give birth to their children this winter.
“I’m excited that my life is going to change, that I am going to be able to raise someone and try to be a good influence on someone else’s life,” Zuniga said.