Warwick resident Carla Sanchez defied the expectation that her education would come to a standstill because of her teen pregnancy. She overcame the struggle of teen motherhood and is looking at a bright future for herself and her son.
During her junior year of high school, Carla became pregnant with her son Jorge at 16 and was expelled from Pine Castle Christian Academy in Orlando, Fla. She began home schooling through Morning Star Academy and graduated in 2009 with a 4.0 grade point average. Sanchez was always a good student, but after the birth of her son her motivation levels skyrocketed.
She said, “I had this intrinsic motivation to succeed for my son, for those who didn’t think I would and to bring hope to other pregnant teens.”
She wanted people to know not every teen mom will be uneducated and on welfare. She believes that life doesn’t have to stop for teens when they get pregnant, that rather it is a gift, a beginning, not an end. So, she set out to be that example.
After her high school graduation Sanchez and her family moved to Rhode Island with the belief that God wanted them there. Her mother, Nannette La Fossé, had a work transfer and they began a new church, Iglesia de Dios Elohim on Admiral St. in Providence. They began looking at colleges and Rhode Island College offered Carla a Presidential Scholarship and she enjoyed the “welcoming, warm atmosphere” of the college.
Now, five years later, 23-year-old Carla Sanchez graduated from Rhode Island College this past Saturday with accomplishments running a mile long. The pre-med student graduated with a degree in psychology with a focus on chemical dependency and a minor in both chemistry and behavioral neuroscience.
When asked about her decisions in major and minors Carla said that her mother, a minister and therapist, was an inspiration on her journey to success. She wanted to help people as her mother had.
Until she was 6, Carla lived in Puerto Rico. Their church was across from a well-known drug exchange point. She became familiar with drug addicts not as a participant, but as a concerned community member and has always wanted to help those suffering from addiction. She also interned at Butler Hospital in Providence last year where her interest in psychology was solidified.
While working her work-study job in RIC’s psychology department Carla received a surprise phone call every graduating undergrad wants to receive – a job offer. She was offered and she accepted a research assistant job with Dr. Christian Connell at Yale Medical School.
Carla said, “Where God wants me to go, doors will open.”
After the yearlong research assistant job Carla plans to continue her education seeking a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Unfortunately, Carla’s grandmother recently passed from cancer, but that only further ignited the graduate’s motivation. Her grandmother always used to tell her to never give up or depend on anybody else. When Carla received the research assistant job she told her grandmother who at the time was in the hospital.
“She couldn’t speak, but when I told her, her eyes opened wide and her face lit up. I knew she was proud,” Carla said.
Carla was re-inspired to fulfill and honor the promises of success she had made to her grandmother.
“I come from a strong women family,” Carla said.
She is inspired by all of them and is a strong woman herself. Carla knows from experience that anything is possible when you put your strength and mind to it. She encourages other teen moms to continue following their dreams and to remember that having a child doesn’t mean those dreams aren’t attainable.
Carla wants to change the perception of teenage pregnancy. She disagrees with the stereotypes and believes that it is just as much stereotype than the pregnancy that inevitably holds young mother’s down. Those in higher positions look down on the uneducated, the inexperienced or those on hard times as “peasants.” Carla hopes to work up the ranks of her field to be in the highest positions.
Carla said, “When I am up there I want to reach back down and lift those girls up with me.”
Carla, recently engaged on November 20, 2013, is planning her summer wedding with her fiancé, Jose Andrade. They met at RIC and it was “love at first sight.” He proposed in the computer lab where they first met in front of her family. He proposed in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
She is also excited to spend more time with Jorge, who is now 5. With the warm weather she is excited for the two of them to go bike riding and to go play at the park.