- Eryka Hale would describe herself as a “normal teenage girl with big dreams.” At eighteen years old, she aspires to one day be a labor and delivery nurse.Hale, however, has one big factor that separates her from other “normal teenage girls.” Her daughter, 15-month-old Naomi, was the catalyst for what Eryka refers to as a “rollercoaster ride that no one was expecting to take.””I went through a night of assault and I didn’t want to say anything about it. I was just like ‘it’s okay, this happens to people all the time.’”Six weeks later Eryka came down with an illness that she and her family couldn’t explain. She recounts not being able to go to school, not being able to keep food down, and not being able to figure out what was wrong. Hale’s family took her to a local hospital where doctors ran tests and determined that she was six weeks pregnant.
“Are you serious?” Eryka recalls questioning the doctor. “We were totally blindsided.”
After Eryka discovered that she was expecting, she and her family enrolled her in Gateway High School in Clovis. It was there that school administrators suggested Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Adolescent Family Life Program.
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” She recounts telling the teacher who had suggested the program.
It was upon meeting staff from the program that Hale knew she was in the right place.
“Yes, I need this in my life.” She remembers thinking to herself. She credits AFLP’s positive youth development activities for helping to strengthen the vital relationships in her personal life.
“Connections that you thought were super strong, not so much,” she remarks, “and ones that you weren’t even thinking about tend to be the strongest connections that you have.”
But perhaps one of the newest connections, forged through AFLP, has been the biggest benefit of the program for Eryka. That is her relationship with case manager Ana Dominguez.
“Ana has been there for literally everything.” She says. “I know that she’s there even if I’m just going through something or need someone to talk to.” Hale credits her case manager for helping her to become more confident in becoming a mom at her age.
And that confidence has been key in helping Eryka shape her optimistic look at the future. When asked where she hopes to be in 5 years, she smiles.
“I’ll be 23, hopefully done with college, working as a nurse, making money, and being a great mom.”
Looking back, Eryka doesn’t lament the sacrifices she’s made for her daughter, including shifting her job goals from editorial photographer to the medical field.
“I knew that I had to do something that was more stable.”
Now she looks forward to helping expectant mothers through labor, a scary time that she describes as unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
Armed with a desire for success, Eryka Hale now takes on the future with confidence.
“For anyone who might be going through what I went through, just learning that they’re about to be a parent. I know it is very scary […] but you will survive it and programs like AFLP will be there for you.”