Destiny Mankowski has laid out her plans. Attending Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) at Central Lakes College this fall to put 16 credits toward college, the 17-year-old wants to major in biology or chemistry at the University of Minnesota following graduation and is excited to have her boyfriend of three years, Jacob McDonald, get involved in PSEO during his senior year at Brainerd High School, too.
She worries about the minor challenges she might face, like any teen would, but she knows that, like the challenges already faced in her path toward adulthood, she can handle it because Mankowski isn’t like most teens. She’s been forced to find adulthood faster after the birth of her and McDonald’s daughter, Violet, 3 1/2 months ago.
“I had huge plans, no I have huge plans,” said Mankowski who found out last July that she was pregnant and finished out her junior year at Area Education Center (AEC) instead of Brainerd High School before giving birth to Violet. “I actually managed to finish the year with one more (high school) credit than I am supposed to.
“Because after finding out I was pregnant I kept telling myself, ‘I am not going to let this slow me down in the slightest,’ and really it hasn’t.”
But Mankowski and McDonald both agree that it hasn’t been easy, starting first with telling their parents.
“We told (our parents) right away,” said Mankowski, who currently lives in her parents home. “My dad, I don’t think, really knew what to think, he just kind of said ‘OK’ but my mom didn’t take it quite as easily.
“She was very angry, definitely, but after a week or so she became used to the idea and was already buying baby clothes so that (anger) wore off pretty quick.”
McDonald said his parents remained fairly calm and didn’t “flip out” too bad.
A change of plans
For Karla Bock, things worked out a little differently than for Mankowski and McDonald. A recent high school graduate at the age of 20, Bock said it was the birth of her now 2 1/2-year-old son, Robert, that gave her the motivation and set her plans into motion.
“I came to AEC in 10th grade because I was struggling in class and fell behind quickly,” said Bock, who got pregnant just before 17 with an ex who is no longer in her life. “I had only 18 credits of 44 needed to graduate so I knew I wasn’t going to graduate on time with my class but when I had him (Robert), I got my butt back to school to finish up.
“Before him I didn’t care (about school). I didn’t understand it, so I didn’t care and then I got so much help from AEC and (staff) that I am excited to be here (graduation), finally.”
Working part time at Walmart while working toward her goal of graduation, Bock utilized her mom for daycare, paying her by purchasing household items to help around the house.
And while work, schoolwork and being a teen mom was hard, Bock said the biggest challenge was doing it without Robert’s dad involved.
“Being a single mom is by far the hardest thing and trying to find a place to live,” said Bock, who added her ex’s mom still takes Robert every other weekend which is a big help. “And his (Robert’s) dad wants nothing to do with him which sucks.
“But then again, I like it better (that her ex is not involved) because there is less drama.”
Life’s messy but they wouldn’t change a thing
Three times in just 15 minutes; that’s how many times three-month-old Violet threw up on her dad as he worked to keep her calm and bubbly during an interview and photos.
“And that’s the first part of our presentation on being a teen parent,” McDonald joked while cleaning up Violet and his pants.
“There really is so much excitement (with her),” Mankowski said.
Bock said at 2 1/2, Robert only continues to get messier but his character is really starting to show, too.
“He is a big ham,” said Bock with a smile. “He will randomly come up to me and say things like, ‘Mommy I missed you, I love you,’ and things like that.
“He has my temper though, too, which is not going to be the easiest thing.”
But between all the spit-ups, late nights, diaper changes and temper tantrums, all three agree that they wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love it (being a mom),” said Bock. “I wouldn’t go back and do a thing different.”
Continuing on their paths
While the teen parents wouldn’t change a thing, their plans certainly were forced to but that hasn’t stopped any of them from their bright futures.
“Right now I am going to keep working (at Walmart) and hopefully pick up a few more hours,” Bock said. “But I plan to go to college, maybe this fall for my basics but I don’t know yet, and eventually I want to either be in the medical field or with animals, mainly big cats like tigers.”
Like Mankowski, McDonald hasn’t wavered on his career chose, planning on being a psychiatrist after graduation.
“Just because you’re a teen mom or dad,” said Mankowski, “doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful.”