Being a teenager can be an emotionally difficult and uncertain time. As can being pregnant for many women. But being a teenage mom-to-be must amplify these feelings of over sensitivity and insecurity a great deal. So the last thing a young woman in this predicament would need is for a total stranger to openly mock her in public. But the best revenge is a life well lived, and one North Carolina female who found herself in exactly that position actually credits the incident for inspiring her to succeed.
Alicia Shanay Collins is a 27-year-old woman who grew up in the southern city of Charlotte, NC. She attended high school just like most other teenagers but at the tender age of 15 it is fair to say that Collins’ life deviated from the norm. Her educational career at Charlotte’s Hawthorne High School took a different turn to other girls her age when Collins fell pregnant.
Although Collins’ situation was hardly conventional, it was by no means extraordinary either. Today, the U.S. has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among Western industrialized nations. Happily, however, the number of teens falling pregnant has declined in recent years. When Collins found herself with child in 2005, the birth rate for the 15-to-19 age group was 40.5 per 1,000 girls. Ten years later, this figure was at 22.3 per 1,000.
Nevertheless, Collins must have found the prospect of becoming a mother so young a frightening and unsettling one. And these feelings where certainly not helped when she overheard a cashier cruelly mocking her. It all started when the pregnant teenager was out shopping with her mother one day, and found herself in a local branch of a chain department store.
Recalling the traumatizing incident on social media in December 2017, Collins revealed that it had stayed with her ever since. She took to Facebook to tell her followers about what happened. She began, “I will never forget being 15 years old, pregnant with India (maybe 6/7 months) and shopping at T.J. Maxx with my mom.”
As she made her way through the store, the teenager got the feeling that someone was talking about her. “As we are shopping, I hear someone laughing and gossiping behind my back,” she revealed. “When I turn around, the store cashier was literally pointing at me, saying, ‘Oh my God! How old are you?’ and laughing with his co-worker.”
Outraged at the shop clerk’s rudeness, Collins’ mom came to her then-teenage daughter’s defense and “snapped.” However, there was very little that the protective parent could do to comfort the distraught young girl. Already, the cashier’s cruel comments were having an adverse effect on the teen’s confidence and sense of self-worth.
Later, Collins described exactly how the incident had made her feel. “What I remember most from that moment was how ashamed and defeated I felt,” she wrote on Facebook. But then her mom weighed in with some advice which also stayed with Collins. She continued, “When I got to the parking lot, my mama told me I better NOT walk around with shame… that people have no idea who I or [the baby] will become.”
In the months that followed, Collins delivered a beautiful little girl she called India. A quick glance at the timeline of the doting mom’s Facebook profile reveals just how much her daughter means to her. In one post, Collins posts an impossibly cute picture of India and proudly proclaims that, “God sent me an angel.”
However, despite her apparent appetite and aptitude for motherhood, Collins still had a wider life to lead. She was extra keen to prove any doubters similar to the T.J. Maxx clerk wrong. Collins was determined to build a great life both for her daughter and herself. So she completed her high school education and enrolled in university.
Collins balanced the demands of further education with being a mom and eventually all her hard work paid off. An interest in special education for very young children led her to study and then gain a degree in Early Intervention at East Carolina University. She then enrolled at Carolinas College of Health Sciences for an associate of applied science degree in nursing. It seemed there was no stopping the young mom from reaching for her dreams.
Consequently, a particularly proud life event arrived for Collins on December 15, 2017. That was the day she donned a cap and gown to receive her nursing degree in a graduation ceremony with her peers. Finally, with two degree certificates now to her name, the one-time teen mom felt she had truly transcended any hater’s lowly expectations of her.
With that in mind, nothing could wipe the smile off Collins’ face on her graduation day with the class of 2017. She posted countless beaming selfies to her Facebook page as she celebrated with her friends and loved ones. Best of all, to make the occasion even more special, young India was in attendance to see her mom achieve another life goal.
Collins was so inspired by her graduation, that she decided it was the perfect occasion to post her message of defiance on social media. She had waited for this moment to post about the T.J. Maxx incident for quite some time. However, it was all the sweeter given what she had achieved in the years that followed her run-in with the cruel cashier.
After relaying how the clerk’s demeaning rudeness had made her feel, Collins wrote, “Less than two percent of teen parents earn a college degree before 30. TWO! While this isn’t my first degree, this one was the most important, because it was based off a dream I had for me and that little baby I was carrying.”
Although her success story was a highly personal one, Collins hoped that it would resonate more widely with other mothers in similar situations. She concluded with a shout out, “To all of the teen parents, single parents, married parents that haven’t quite reached their goals. I am rooting for you. You CAN! Just get out here and do it.”
It didn’t take long for Collins’ inspirational social media update to take off on the internet. In just under one month the Facebook post had attracted almost 700 likes and more than 70 shares from her followers. Furthermore, Collins received an abundance of well wishes from online commenters on her page.
Below Collins’ update and triumphant pictures of her graduation, one person gushed, “Congratulations Alicia. You were awesome at Hawthorne and it continues! What an example of success you are for India and others including the ‘jerk’ cashier.” Another wrote, “I hope those employees at T.J. Maxx are reading this now that it’s been shared everywhere!!”
Further down the thread, it appeared that Collins’ words were exactly what one young girl had needed to hear. “Your story motivated me,” they wrote. “Today was definitely one of those days. I too was in the same boat as you, and too many times my mom had to tell me to hold my head up. I currently am in the army, and that was one dream crossed out. Thanks for being such an inspiration.”
So Collins’ story just goes to show why nobody should ever allow anyone’s opinion of them stand in their way. If Collins had let her haters put her down, she may never have realized her dream of becoming a nurse. Now the talented and confident young woman can share her gifts with generations of patients who will be lucky to benefit from them.