Donesha Pegues has accomplished a lot. She just graduated from college with her Bachelor's in Science degree from Cal State Fullerton. She's a program manager in the health education department at Planned Parenthood where she is in charge of three teen pregnancy prevention programs and she volunteers as a Title X/Americorp intern for TeenSource. Donesha has done all that while parenting her young son all through her teen years!
TeenSource: You were 15 years old when your son was born. What were your ideas about your future at the time?
Donesha: I became pregnant at 14 years old. I had my son four days after my fifteenth birthday. Ever since that experience, I've always wanted to work in teen pregnancy prevention, either talking to young people about preventing pregnancies or helping teens get through the challenges of being young parents. Before I got pregnant, my dream was to go to college and become a doctor. After I had my son, my goals didn't really change much, but I started to get exposed to different things that began to interest me more. Life happened and I found new things that changed my perceptions. I attended school throughout my pregnancy and participated in clubs and other school activities. I was home schooled for a few weeks after my son was born - then summer hit. After summer vacation, I went back to school again.
TeenSource: That's why you became a teen advocate, why you became a teen counselor - you wanted to help pregnant teens?
Donesha: I knew that this was an important issue facing teens. The year after I had my son, the number of pregnant girls at my school doubled. I've always had a passion for community, for influencing the lives of young people in some positive way.
TeenSource: Did you face any opposition to your pregnancy and your choice to have a child at that age?
Donesha: Yes, I faced opposition. I faced it from strangers who stared at me in the supermarket trying to guess my age. I faced it from my closest family members. I faced it from distant family members, too. Some of my family didn't talk to me for a long time. They were disappointed in the choices I had made, you know, having sex so soon and not using protection. It took a while for my family to support my decision to continue with my pregnancy. I just knew I was going to be put out of the house, but after awhile everyone started helping me whenever they could and I stayed home. I didn't want to become a statistic. I knew people were thinking I was going to stop going to school and struggle for the rest of my life. You don't know how many times I heard, "It's not going to be easy raising a child, Donesha." But all of that kept me motivated. I wasn't going to let what other people thought of me take over my life. I would close my eyes and I could see myself graduating from college. I knew it was going to be hard. It was hard enough trying to work, go to school and keep up with my friends and social life. I was dead tired, but I learned to listen to people who encouraged me to do positive things. I had two teachers who truly believed in me and helped me get through the first part of my college career. I will never forget them because they believed in me.
TeenSource: How did you feel about your pregnancy?
Donesha: I was scared, mainly about the delivery. I wondered if the delivery was going to hurt. That was my first fear. I also knew my entire life was going to change in a matter of months. I asked myself questions like "Am I going to be able to keep my baby healthy?" "When am I going to get a car?" "Is anyone going to hire me?" "Who's going to watch my son while I'm at school or work?" I really didn't know what to feel. People would ask me how all this happened and all I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know."
TeenSource: How do you feel about being a mother now? How has that changed from the fearful stage at fifteen?
Donesha: I still fear [laughter]! I don't think that fear ever goes away, but I'm happy to be a mother. I don't think there will ever be a day when I don't worry. I always hope that my decisions are going to be good for my son and me in the long run. Ever since I turned fifteen, I've had to make decisions that not only affect me, but another person's life as well. I had to grow up and become a mature young adult even though I was still a teen. Believe me, it's been a struggle and it still is [laughter].
TeenSource: Would you sum up how you got involved in sexual health and teen pregnancy prevention, what lead you to Planned Parenthood?
Donesha: When I was in college, I took a course that required volunteer hours. It was the first course in my major, health science. Anyway, one day we had a guest speaker from Planned Parenthood who talked to us about her role as a health educator. She pretty much described exactly what I wanted to do in terms of working in teen pregnancy prevention, so I contacted Planned Parenthood and volunteered with them for about six months. After that, they offered me a position as a Program Coordinator. That was three and a half years ago. It was a little hard to believe that one of my dreams came true. Life has kept me on the same path. A couple years ago, I met Robert Coppel and I got involved in the TeenSource website project. I felt like this was another way to reach out to teens - using computers and modern technology - so when Robert asked me to become a member of the TeenSource Advisory Board I said yes right away.
TeenSource: So after you got inside that world, what was your mission?
Donesha: In my heart, my mission was and still is to inspire young people to follow their dreams and encourage them not to give up on life, not to give up on themselves, not to give up on their families. Life's not over even after having a child really young. I really want young people, especially young parents, to know that they don't have to give up on themselves or their dreams. They can find strength within themselves or get it from people who care about them. They can stay motivated. They can succeed. There were people who doubted me and thought I wasn't going to make it, but I couldn't let them get to me. You have to take risks, you know. I plan to get my Master's degree. I plan to continue working with teens and impacting lives.
TeenSource: Talk a little about how you found the strength to accomplish so much.
Donesha: I relied on coffee and music [laughter]. Oh man, I went through a lot of different things. From Teena Marie at night to hip-hop during the day. I have too many favorites. Right now, my favorite is Anthony Hamilton, but it changes. I'm also listening to Floetry. I love them! I listen to Jill Scott. I'm really into the NeoSoul sound.
The answer to your question is I had to sacrifice a whole lot. I had to trust people. That wasn't very easy for me. I had to take risks and accept help when I needed it. When I needed inspiration, I looked to my grandmother and my son. My grandmother always pushed me to do a little more, to do a little better. My son, I just look at this face and think, I just need to stay on top. I just need to do the very best that I can. I just need to think big.