June 15, 2011
OSHKOSH — Two years ago, Faith Lohry, then a 16-year-old sophomore at Oshkosh North High School, told her mother she was pregnant.
Lohry’s mom had an announcement of her own: I’m moving.
“That was really hard to not have my mom and dad there to support me,” said Lohry, now 18 and raising her daughter, Mallorie, while she attends Fox Valley Technical College and works at Dairy Queen. “My dad was never really there … and my mom just kinda left when she found out I was pregnant.”
Lacking a support system, Lohry built her own from scratch by piecing together a patchwork of family friends, school counselors and community resources to overcome the bitter frustrations and complexities of raising a child when you’re still a child yourself.
“It was hard, I’m not going to say it wasn’t,” said Lohry, who receives limited support from Mallorie’s father. “But (Mallorie) really pushed me to work harder. Obviously it makes you grow up a lot faster and be way more mature. You miss out on a lot, but then you gain a lot in return.”
On the fast track to adulthood, Lohry moved in with her boyfriend’s parents for five months while she received homebound instruction from teachers at Oshkosh North and assistance from community organizations, such as Parent Connection, a division of Family Services, which is a nonprofit agency serving northeastern Wisconsin.
When tensions arose between Lohry and Mallorie’s grandparents, Lohry moved to the Rosendale area, where family friends watched Mallorie during the day while Lohry attended Laconia High School.
Her tenacity eventually paid off: Lohry graduated early with honors.
“She has worked really hard to get where she is today,” said Kalyn Mlinar, a teen parent coordinator at Parent Connection who coaches Lohry on child development and nutrition. “She’s really had to do all of this by herself. She’s a really good example of how teen moms can succeed and how hard it is. She’s really making a better life for (herself) and her daughter.”
Mlinar and her colleague Katie Krauter, family support specialist at Parent Connection, said Lohry and other successful young mothers are eager to share their stories of hard work to prevent future unplanned teenage pregnancies.
“The teen moms that we work with are so outspoken,” Krauter explained. “They’ll tell you, ‘This is hard. This is not how I would want to do it if I could start all over again.’ They’re not afraid to talk about it and they’re very verbal about having to work two jobs and still not having any money because you’re paying for daycare.”
In planning a future for daughter, Lohry is building on her past by studying criminal justice at Fox Valley Tech with the goal of becoming a child protective services worker.
“I want to go and take kids out of bad homes, because I know what that feels like,” Lohry explained. “I would never put Mallorie through that and I don’t want other kids to have to go through it either.”