Graduating high school is no easy task, especially when you’re a young mother. However, Association House High School’s Family Literacy Program understands the importance of parenthood.

Alejandra, an English Language Learner (ELL) and a parenting student, shares how her son motivated her to overcome challenges and graduate high school.

Why did you decide to attend Association House High School?

At first, it was because I had my baby, and they had a daycare, so it was great for me because I didn’t want to leave high school, and I was not working. Also, I didn’t know how to deal with it because it’s hard to have a baby and continue to study. The school was great for me because I had a daycare and time to watch my baby, change diapers and feed him.

How was your son’s experience in the Family Literacy Program?

The first day he cried too much because he was not used to being with other kids, but he got used to it after like two weeks. It was great because he made friends and learned a lot of things that we can do at home.

How did the pandemic affect you and your son? What challenges did the pandemic bring for you guys?

It was really hard because he was growing, so he needed more attention. I didn’t know how to use Google classroom or Zoom, so I didn’t know how to do my homework online. It was hard. I don’t think I passed all my classes, especially [my] English class, [so] that’s why I had to catch up on these classes this past semester.

How did Mr. Pilger and Ms. Thomas help you through these different challenges? 

Mr. P stayed with me all day and [would] text me asking me if I was going to school. He [would] stay late with me at school. We did a lot of work this last semester to make sure I could graduate on time. I feel like I have a lot of help from my teachers, Mr. P is still helping me apply for scholarships [for college], and he is writing me a referral letter. I feel like I’m not alone.

Ms. Thomas was always there, and I knew that if I ever wanted help from her that she would help me.

High school is already hard as it is, and you had your son to take care of as well. So, how did it feel to graduate? When you look back at all the challenges that you faced, what does this mean to you?

I was so happy, and I was so proud of [myself] because I [don’t] think that many moms think about studying. They don’t think about their future. They just want to work or make money. But a lot of [moms] my age are out there smoking, drinking, and partying. They do not think that this will affect their child. I want the best for my child, so everything I do is for him because I know he’s watching me, and I want him to be proud of his mom, and I want him to be a good person when he grows up. So yeah, I feel like I’m doing the right thing, and I’m happy.

Why did you decide to further your education and go to college?

My mind changed a lot because like a year ago I didn’t want to go to college. I was like, no, I’m just going to work. But [I realized] that if I work in a factory then I will be there all my life making the same money just working my hours and I don’t like that.

So, I started reading books, getting advice from people older than me, and realized I want to go to college. But I always thought that if I wanted to go to college, I needed money, so I thought it was not possible for me because I’m a mom.

But this semester, I saw that I’m not alone. Fortunately, I’m in this country and have my residency. Many people want a social security number to work or have a career, but they can’t, so if I have it then I must use it and [take] advantage of it.

I [saw] that it wasn’t impossible for me to go to college. If I want it, then I can make it happen. I think it’s all in your mind, so you must change your mind, be open to learning, and be open to challenge yourself because it’s not easy. But I always say if you want it, you can.


Mr. Pilger and Ms. Thomas also shared their experience of working with Alejandra and getting her to graduation. Ms. Thomas was her case manager and acted as a liaison between Alejandra and her teachers. She helped communicate Alejandra’s needs to the teachers so she can succeed as an ELL student. Mr. Pilger worked with her to complete 13 classes in 10 weeks to graduate on time. He guided her through the Credit Recovery classes, which are incredibly difficult.

How has she grown since you started working with her? 

Ms. Thomas: At first, Alejandra didn’t really like our school. Although she had made the decision to enroll, she was pregnant and struggling with many personal issues that made it hard for her to succeed. Communicating her needs as an English Language Learner was also sometimes difficult. After Liam was born, she had a new focus and we worked together to get her the support she needed.

I have seen her mature a lot from not liking school and being uninterested to her holding onto the fact that “I know this is what I need to do, and I want to do it for my son. I don’t want to be another statistic where I drop out of school. I want to do this for him.” When we officially told her [that] she was a graduate, she started crying and was like, “I did it for him, I did it for him, I did it for Liam because I want to be an example for him.” She also said she wants to be an example to inspire others that may have faced the same challenges and help them to overcome some of the same struggles that she did. 

Mr. Pilger: I have known her 10 to 12 weeks at the most, but we worked together a lot [during] that time. She grew to be more comfortable like – when we’re working on something together, she’d say, “what does this mean?” A lot of students don’t inquire so much, but she always wants more information. She wants to soak up as much as she can, and if she doesn’t understand something, she’s going to ask. She’s very proactive and [became] more comfortable reaching out for help and asking for what she needed to succeed.

She’s just an incredible young lady, always so appreciative of any help she gets, always thanking us repeatedly. She’s very focused and determined to always improve her grades. In some of her classes, she worked up to a B, but then she’d be like, I want to go back and get an A. So, she would do the extra work to make sure she could get an A. She always wanted to keep pushing herself.


Currently, Alejandra is working to further her education at Wilbur Wright College before attending Loyola University Chicago to earn a psychology degree. At Association House, we work to remove the barriers that impact our student’s education. We hope to continue rooting out the inequalities and preparing them for their bright futures.