Janel Lanae’s perseverance to earn a college degree is a triumph that’s inspiring young single moms everywhere.
The 23-year-old woman, who became a mother at 15 and lived in foster care, overcame numerous obstacles and in the end, she earned her degree from the Ohio State University, NBC News reports.
“My greatest joy has always been my education,” she told the outlet.
Although born into difficult circumstances, Lanae held fast to her academic goals. She lived in an abusive home, but did everything to stay focused on her grades. The Dayton, Ohio woman told NBC that a fifth-grade teacher helped her apply to the Ohio State University’s Young Scholars Program, which provides a range of assistance to poor but academically talented students of color.
However, there were obstacles on the road to college. She entered the foster care system at 14 and got pregnant the following year. Over the next four years, Lanae lived in nine foster homes and a group home, attended eight different high schools, and lived in four different cities.
All the while, the OSU program required her to maintain at least a 3.3 grade point average, as well as attend mandatory meetings every two weeks and sessions on the campus. The program was rigorous and demanding, but she viewed it as the key to her future. It offered a financial aid package that would pay her tuition, the program director told NBC.
Teenage motherhood added another layer of challenges. Lanae told NBC she did everything possible to keep her daughter, Malena, who’s now 7 years old.
“I kept her in every single home that I went to, which is very rare. I had jobs. I put her in daycare with my own money,” she said.
Lanae had support along the way from the program’s Dayton coordinator, Janeisha Finch, and a caseworker, Annie Williams.
She explained how instrumental that support was to her success:
“My foster parents were never willing to drive me back to Dayton two hours back and forth. Other caseworkers didn’t care. But Annie would come pick me up, wait for me, take me to get food afterwards because she knew I hadn’t had anything to eat, and watch my daughter while I was in the meeting. She went above and beyond for me, and she’s the reason I majored in social work at OSU.”
With her degree in hand, Lanae plans “to infiltrate the foster care system,” she told the network.
Her goal is to work with girls in foster care by building their self-esteem and enabling them to live successful lives.
SOURCE: NBC NEWS | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty