Special Reports

Baby doesn't hinder her studies

STOCKTON -- Yarikza Comparán became scared when she discovered she was pregnant during her junior year at Franklin High School.

"I really didn't know what to do, but my mom told me that everything would be fine," said Yarikza, now 18.

Despite weekly hospital visits, being on bedrest for the final month of her high-risk pregnancy, and the stress of balancing both motherhood and school work, her mother's wise words were correct.

"Everything has been really good so far," said Yarikza, whose son, Ángel Isaac, was born on Halloween last year.

Since the birth of her son, Yarikza's academic and career goals have not faltered.

As her parents watched Ángel, Yarikza -- a member of the school's National Honors Society and Circle of Friends, a disability awareness organization -- kept up her grades in school. She graduated from Franklin's International Baccalaureate program May 21, and will begin commuting to University of California, Merced, in the fall.

Rather than change or constrain her future plans, Yarikza said the birth of her son has helped reinforce the importance of pursuing an education and a career. She hopes to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.

"People stereotype that being pregnant at a young age, you're not going to pursue what you want," Yarikza said. "I think you can use it as an encouragement to go more in life and get your goals done."

Yarikza said she has seen other teen moms drop out of school but, she said, "why am I going to give up if I know I can accomplish what I want?"

Sonia Comparán, Yarikza's mother, said she was worried her daughter would drop out of school once she became pregnant.

But, she said in Spanish, Yarikza "wants to continue forward, so we have no other choice by to support her."

The birth of Ángel will not be an obstacle to her daughter's studies, "but rather something that helps her improve herself," said Sonia Comparán, a native of La Palma, Michoacán, México.

Today, Ángel is only seven months old. But in the future, Yarikza said, "I hope he can take into consideration all the work I've done, and strive for a better future for himself."

She said she will support any career path he chooses, "as long as he doesn't give up in his education."

Her advice for other teen moms is similar.

"Don't give up," she said, "because you can use that mistake to strive for a better future."