“My daughter is my motivation, she got me through that final week of midterms at USC.”
This isn’t a phrase heard very often USC. Yet, this was the life of a former USC student, Brittani Marinez, who graduated this last winter with a degree in sociology.
Marinez is not the only person to balance raising a child while pursuing a bachelor’s degree here at USC; Cindy Nguyen, who will graduate this May with a degree in business administration, is also raising a child.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics, an estimated 13 percent of college undergraduates claimed one or more dependents on the 2003-2004 report. A release of updated information has yet to be provided.
Both Marinez and Nguyen said that from the time they became pregnant, they were determined to continue with school and pursue a degree to set an example for their daughters.
Marinez found out she was pregnant three months after her high school graduation.
“I was really young, and my initial decision was to have an abortion at Planned Parenthood,” Marinez said. “I was in the waiting room and God intervened in my life and I walked right out. I trusted God, and decided to keep my baby.”
At the time, Marinez worked at a retail store in her local mall while attending Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. Once her daughter Zoë Rose was born, Marinez quit her job and focused completely on school.
“I got really close to my sociology professor, and he made an effort to reach out to me,” Marinez said. “One day he asked if I could go to any college, what college would I choose, and I said USC was my dream school. But I didn’t have the grades or the money.”
Marinez’s professor mentored her, helped her push through college and recommended various programs she could get involved in to help with raising her child. Marinez eventually picked up her grades, made the honors program and got into USC.
“In August of 2008, I found out that I got into USC,” Marinez said. “I really felt like I had made it for my daughter and for myself. It was my greatest accomplishment.”
Nguyen had a slightly different experience than Marinez, as she got pregnant while she was a student at USC.
“I transferred to USC from Long Beach City College,” Nguyen said. “I took a year off USC to get married, and when I came back second semester, I got pregnant.”
Nguyen was 24 when she became pregnant, and the birth of her daughter, Jade, inspired her to achieve in school.
“When I had my baby girl, it changed my life,” Nguyen said. “If I was focused before the baby, after I am motivated to what I was doing 10 times more. Because of this, I came back to USC this year, and I’m trying to finish up.”
Nguyen said her professors didn’t treat her any differently when they discovered she was pregnant.
“I never used my baby as an excuse for anything unless it was a doctor’s appointment that I had to go to,” Nguyen said. “When my professors did find out I had a baby, they’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh! How do you do it?’”
Nguyen has yet to graduate, but she single-handedly runs her own business, The Art of Make Up. Nguyen’s business is a make-up school, shop and salon that was established last May. Located in Orange County, the shop has already established a credible clientele list.
Both Marinez and Nguyen acknowledged challenges during their pregnancies. Some days, they missed classes for doctor’s appointments, and their overall college experience was very different from the norm.
“When I was pregnant, I didn’t get morning sickness,” Nguyen said. “But when my baby was born and I went back to school, it was much more complicated because anytime the baby needed something, I’d have to take the day off school.”
Marinez explained that she didn’t have the typical college experience because she lived off campus and spent nearly two hours in traffic both ways.
“I pushed so hard to graduate for my daughter and myself, but being at USC and being a parent made my college experience very different from my peers,” Marinez said. “Class, work, Zoë. That was my life for three years.”
Despite the difficulties that come with parenting at a relatively young age, Nguyen said Jade was the primary reason she pursued her now-successful business.
“I was thinking of her most of the time,” Nguyen said. “I want to become a better person for my baby.”
Marinez said everything she had to endure was worth it.
“My main motivation in graduating was so when Zoë is older, she can’t say [school] is too hard because she had me as her example,” she said.