Teen girl forced to quit school before her 16th birthday: 'My mother told me to get a job to help support the family'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My mother was born in July.

In the spring before my mother's sixteenth birthday, my grandmother told her in no uncertain terms that she was dropping out of school before the next school year and getting a job to help support the family. My grandparents were among the working poor. They both had jobs, but with four children, it was tough to make ends meet.

"My mother told me to get a job to help support the family," my mother explained.

Since my mother would turn sixteen in the middle of summer vacation, my grandmother told her to make sure she let the school know in advance that she would not be returning in the fall. My grandmother didn't want anything to come between the family and my mother's potential paychecks.

My mother went to the guidance counselor and asked about the situation. The guidance counselor told my mother she would have the paperwork ready for her on the last day of school.

Shortly after the end of the school year, when everyone else was enjoying summer vacation, my mother found herself a job at a jewelry shop, setting aside her dreams of continuing her education for the greater good of her family.

Years later, my mother would attempt to get her GED. She took the preliminary test and waited for the results, but they never came. When she finally got in contact with the school to see about her test results, they told her they didn't have a record of her taking the test at all.

Her plans to further her education were foiled again. "I guess it just wasn't meant to be," she told me.

The choices we make in life can have lasting consequences, even when they are made with the best intentions. My mother's experience serves as a reminder that education should never be taken for granted and that it is important to fight for what you want in life.

Thanks to my mother's support and encouragement, I was able to receive both my high school diploma and my college degree. I did it for both of us.

My education is something I will always cherish. My mother's experience helped shape me into the person I am today, not because I followed her path but because she steered me away from it.

Every day, I think about my mother's story and how proud she must be of me for doing what she could not. She may have been forced to give up, but she never let me do the same.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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