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By Katie Scarvey
Salisbury PostLike many young women, Erika Delaney unexpectedly became a parent when she was a teenager.
All too often, a young woman’s dreams are derailed or at least deferred when a child enters the picture. But Erika refused to abandon the vision she had for her future, although she did have to alter it a bit.
Erika discovered she was pregnant her senior year at South Rowan High School.
It was Thanksgiving morning in 2002, and her mother, Debra Ellison, had sent her to the grocery store to get some things for dinner.
Something prompted her to buy a pregnancy test as well.
It was positive.
She called her best friend, who told her not to panic, that sometimes there were false positives.
So she bought another test ó which yielded the same result.
A lot of things ran through her mind. Her biggest fear, she says, was that her mother would be disappointed in her. And she also worried that her plans to go to college ó she wanted to go to East Carolina University ó would be ruined.
Her mother was supportive, but as they talked about options, they both concluded that with a baby, attending East Carolina University was not a viable option.
Still, all was not lost.
“God worked it out,” Erika says.
Erika got a scholarship to Winston-Salem State University, a school she could commute to. Four weeks after her son Tsion was born, she took her first college class.
Now, four years later, she has achieved her goal. She graduated from Winston-Salem State University in May and is ready to start a nursing job this month at Wake Forest University’s Baptist Medical Center.
Not that it’s been easy.
But with plenty of support and a lot of faith, Erika managed.
‘Good Beginnings’
After Erika found out she was pregnant, she began a program called Good Beginnings for Teen Parents. She heard about it through a guidance counselor at her school.
She began to take classes that covered what to expect with pregnancy. Along with five or six other pregnant teens, she learned how to care for a newborn, including diaper-changing, baths, feeding.
She also attended presentations outside of school.
Erika was receptive to the help. Although she had her mother to support her, she liked having packets of information to refer to.
“I thought it was wonderful,” says Erika of the program. “I liked being informed and knowing what to expect.”
The program gives incentives to participants by giving them “baby bucks” ó a motivational point system. Baby bucks could be turned in to get things for the baby, such as strollers or car seats.
Erika remembers getting baby bucks for good attendance, for making the honor role, and for going to her pre-natal appointments. Basically, Erika says, the baby bucks encourage good behaviors.
While she was pregnant, Tsion’s father was out of the picture, Erika says. Tsion was born in July 2003, and Erika and Sam Delaney, Tsion’s father, were engaged by August 2004. They married in March 2005.
Erika feels lucky that certain things seemed to fall into place for her.
For example, her mother started a daycare center just when Erika needed it. At four weeks old, when Erika was starting her college classes, Tsion was cared for at the daycare run by her mother.
Even though her worries about her son’s care were allayed, Erika had a grueling task ahead of her.
Consider her typical school day.
Her alarm would go off at 6 a.m. She’d have to have her son at day care by 7 a.m., and then she’d drive to Winston-Salem to begin class by 8 a.m. She’d get out by 3:30 or 4 p.m., drive home, and then start her job in the lab at Rowan Regional Medical Center until 9 p.m. Sometimes, her mother would keep her son at night for her so that she could get some sleep.
The next day, she’d start the process all over again.
Erika’s strong work ethic was already firmly in place, though. While she was in high school, Erika had jobs, working at Food Lion and later at KFC.
It was hard, Erika says, since she didn’t have as much time to be with Tsion as she would have liked.
“I knew I had to sacrifice that so that we could have a good life later,” she says.
Things got a little more complicated when Erika got pregnant again her senior year at college. Despite some health issues, she continued attending classes, even though one instructor advised Erika to drop her course that semester. She stuck to her plan, though, and made it through, graduating May 5. Her daughter Talia Samone was born May 15.
“It has been rough,” Erika says. “At times I wanted to stop.”
“But she did it,” says Ellison. “She’s a go-getter.”
“Sometimes I’d cry to Mom. I’d say, ‘This is hard.’ And she’d say, ‘Let’s pray.’
“You’d be amazed at what you can do,” Erika says. “After all the hardships, I’m seeing what it’s going to get me.”
Erika gives a lot of the credit to the many people who have supported her along the way, like Valerie Stewart of the United Way.
Erika says that in applying for a scholarship from the United way, she wrote an essay about parenting. Stewart, she says, told her that the essay and touched her and that she wanted to meet Erika.
“She’s taken me under her wing and taught me a lot,” Erika says. “She really wants the best for young people.”
Nurses at Rowan Regional have also helped her, she says.
“Erika has a lot of people who mentor her, who encourage her. I think that’s one of the important things. I think she’s had a lot of people who look out for her best interests.”
Erika’s faith has been an important factor as well.
“God has been good to me,” she says. “God has been faithful to me, so I try to be faithful to him.”
Erika can’t wait to start working in July. “When I love to do something, I really love it,” she says.
“I love my patients,” she says, referring to the clinical rotations she did at Baptist as part of her degree program. “I always looked forward to seeing them.”
As she looks back on her journey, Erika is amazed. Grateful.
Good Beginnings coordinator Amy Cozart believes Erika is an impressive ambassador for the program.
“Erika has become a positive role model for young parents in the Good Beginnings program,” Cozart says.
“She is proof that they can succeed in life and provide a quality home for their children by working hard and believing in themselves.”
Sometimes, it’s even hard for Erika to believe what she’s accomplished since that Thanksgiving Day when she discovered that her life would never be the same.
“It’s unreal to see where I started,” she says.
“I’m proud of me.”
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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