Jelina Latrice is a recent college graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the mother of a four-year-old boy named Karter. Like many joyful graduates celebrating their accomplishments, Jelina posted a photo of herself wearing a cap and gown on social media. In the photo, Jelina is holding Karter and the post is captioned with a moving letter to her son.
To Jelina’s surprise, her photo quickly captured the hearts of tens of thousands of people. It went viral and has now been shared more than 69,000 times. Jelina wrote…
For all those nights you had to fall asleep in the library, for all those times you had to watch cartoons alone because I needed to do homework, for the early mornings in daycare because I needed to be in class to being the last one there because I had to work, most importantly for the moments of separation because I needed to get this done, Thank you. You are the motivation for my heart to keep beating. I love you more than words can say. I finished because you needed to see me do it. I’m not strong because I want to be, I’m strong because I’m your first example. We’ve seen a lot and overcame a lot more.
To infinity and beyond, a mothers greatest love #iGraduated
As Jelina’s story is being shared on a number of news sites, the message that you don’t have to choose between being a parent and getting your education is being told. On Jelina’s Facebook cover photo is a scripture from John 13:7. In that verse, Jesus says, “You do not realize now what I’m doing but later you will understand.” I imagine there have been many times that Jelina didn’t know what would happen in her life, yet she continued pushing forward in faith.
Jelina’s good friend Adara Johnson posted a beautiful message about her on Facebook. Adara wrote about a tragic time when Jelina lost her very best friend and had to sacrifice her son living with her so she could finish school. Adara knew Jelina could have given up but she watched her continue to believe in spite of challenging circumstances. She writes:
My girl has Faith. Shortly after all of this happened, her car gave out and she had to give up her apartment …. In order to save money to finish school. During all of this, she made it to class every single time… ON TIME. She praised her way through each and every situation and I really could never understand why it seemed she was giving all she had and things kept happening to her… by the end of 2015, she got a new truck and is moving into her new townhome summer 2016!
Adara also mentioned that shortly before graduating, an international artist heard Jelina sing and wanted her to go on tour. It was a great opportunity but Jelina turned it down so she could finish school. Her goal was to complete what she started and get her degree for her son Karter — and as her friend Adara said, “She did it!”
Every year at universities across our nation, women face pregnancy decisions. They deal with pressure to abort from boyfriends, parents and a society that tells them it’s worth it to terminate their children to finish their education – but thankfully, these students are not alone. Pregnant on Campus is a student-led initiative to help pregnant students find the resources and help they need. As they say on their website:
The fact is that 44% of abortions in America are obtained by college-aged women (age 18-24). Too often, pregnant and parenting students feel forced to choose between continuing their education or dropping out to raise their child. College campuses have failed to foster a life-affirming environment and provide the necessary resources for pregnant and parenting students.
I’m grateful for pro-life students who are reaching out to make campuses safer places for pregnant and parenting students. I hope Jelina’s story can be used to show other pregnant moms that with hard work, faith and perseverance, they too can accomplish their dreams.
Jelina’s love for her son didn’t compete with her dreams; it compelled her to pursue them. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors!