May 23, 1997 marked the end of my high school career and the beginning of my adult life.
I was armed with a high school diploma…and a two-year old son.
I had no idea that what had been the hardest part of my life up to that point would define me as a woman, establish my profession, define my calling, and give purpose to my life.
The day before on my birthday, was Senior Awards Day. In my book, I talk about my disappointment that day when I was skipped over for announcement of my full leadership scholarship to the University of Memphis.
I had worked so hard to earn that scholarship and just wanted my moment to show everyone in the audience that the teen mom had achieved that. I had graduated number 8 in my class of over 300 students and gotten a full leadership scholarship.
But I didn’t get that chance. My guidance counselor later apologized and said, “What matters is that you got the scholarship.”
That did not console me in that moment because announcing my accomplishment to all the people who I assumed had doubted me and counted me out was like me sticking out my tongue at them. Or maybe even flipping them off. The stubborn, teenage me needed that moment.
But I learned from that experience and so many others. I have achieved so much and been acknowledged many times. Overlooked several too. But I learned early how to say, “S.O. What!”.
Below are the Lessons Learned that I include at the end of the chapter of Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother where I graduated from high school that helped me deal with that situation and helped me as I made my transition to college.
- Don’t do it for other people or acknowledgments. The recognition may never come. Do it for yourself. Do it for your child.
- Find a way. Make a way. I knew going to college was my ticket to a better life for me and my son, but my parents did not have the money to pay for my college education. I, not my mother or anyone else, sought and applied for several scholarships. I did the research and filled out the paperwork to apply for financial aid. My diligence paid off, and I ended up going to college for free.
- Make a decision to succeed, and stop making excuses. I could have easily decided that it was too hard to attend school and to be a mother and given up, but I knew that giving up then would mean giving up on my future and my son.
- I can do anything I set my mind to. Potty training a little boy was hard for me as woman. I did not have the same anatomy as him, but I showed him how to use what he had to do what he needed to do. I took that lesson and applied it to my own life. I did not have what everyone else had, and I did have something a lot of others did not–a baby. I learned how to do what I needed to do with what I had.
I still use these lessons and many of the other lessons in the book to guide my decisions and keep me encouraged.
I’m Summer Owens, and my passion is helping youth and young adults realize success no matter what obstacles they face. As an international resilience and leadership keynote speaker, author, S.O. What! Success Coach, and creator of the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum, I empower people to say, “So what!” to even their greatest challenges. provide a framework to help people see past their challenges and focus on solutions using the S.O. What! Success System (Overcome Obstacles + Eliminate Excuses + Calculate Choices = S.O. What! Success). Through keynotes, workshops, books, online courses, and workbooks, I use life’s challenges and my own story of resilience as a rape survivor and teen mom success story to help others confidently pursue their dreams.
Looking for an inspiring college motivational speaker? A high school literacy curriculum? A middle school life skills workbook? A great example for teen mothers? A women’s empowerment or single mother’s conference speaker? I’m your girl and will help any audience say, “S.O. What!”.