TULARE -- Allison Velasco broke down when she learned she was pregnant at age 14.
"I just cried, because I knew I wasn't ready," Allison said.
Though she did not feel prepared to become a mother at such a young age, Allison said she had no choice but to embrace her new responsibilities.
"I'm going to be a mom, so I have to grow up," she remembers thinking.
Now 18 and the mother of two sons, ages 3 and 6 months, Allison said teen parenthood has not been as challenging as she once feared it would be.
Her mother has supported her, as has her husband, 20-year-old Óscar Velasco. He started working at a dairy when he was 17 years old so he could help support the family.
"Honestly, for some people it's harder, but for me it was actually really easy," said Allison, who on a Tuesday morning in May wore plaid pajama pants and a white T-shirt. Her baby, Óscar, wore a bib that declared, "I'm the Boss."
"It kind of worked out for us."
Allison has also received help and guidance from the Tulare Adult School's Child Development Center and the center's supervisor, Mary Gwinn.
The center, which provides care for 24 children, supports teen parents who are pursuing their high school or general education degree, and young parents who are full-time students at the adult school.
"I honestly would recommend every teen mom to come through this daycare," Allison said.
She said the center provided her sons with food and diapers. Gwinn, she said, taught her valuable parenting skills, like how to discipline her children and teach them to eat healthy foods.
Allison has earned her GED, and is currently taking an office skills course at the Tulare Adult School, which will prepare her to work as a receptionist. For now, college is not in her plans, she said."
"I know I missed my whole teenage life, but I don't regret it one bit," Allison said. "Since I had my first son, I've enjoyed and loved being a mom."
Still, Allison knows her positive experience with teen parenthood was unique. For that reason, she encouraged all sexually active young women to use protection.
"Because not everyone has the support system that I did, either have safe sex or don't have it at all," she said.