College labels: Being a young mom

Emily Morris, Staff Reporter

“I thought people would look at me and label me.”

Samantha Orchard, a pre-nursing student at Oakland University, was used to being labeled by roles such as “athletic,” “preppy” or “nerdy,” which have been the focal point of countless movies and is often glamorized. Orchard was preparing to take on a more unique role than the average student. For any student, sticking to the status quo is probably a much easier task in Disney’s “High School Musical” than during actual preparation for college. In fact, some students, like Orchard, are blessed with unexpected responsibilities that are life changing during college.       

Each encounter throughout college has the potential to open new doors regarding personal life, spirituality or career pathways, but Orchard was focused on someone who was far more important than any college meeting. Her daughter, Elenora, was born during her transition into college, possibly labeling her as a teen mom before she could even begin creating her identity in the next chapter of her life.  

“At first, I was kind of embarrassed to tell others that I was a teen mom,” Orchard said. “Not that I don’t love my daughter more than anything, but there’s such a harsh stigma for teen moms.”  

Soon Orchard was able to defy solely being labeled as a teen mom and found several accompaniments for that title, which she attributes entirely to the positive feedback that surrounded her. For instance, a trip to Lima, Peru with MEDLIFE became a defining point on her journey to becoming a nurse, and being a teaching assistant for Oakland’s Honors College gave her a second leadership role. Nevertheless, she claims her family is the main source of her independence to embark on opportunities, sustain being a full-time student and keep a part-time job.

Being a student mother, of course, does encompass a variety of challenges, despite being blessed with supportive family and friends. Orchard ensured that her available study time does dwindle when she’s at home and focusing on schoolwork within the time available is difficult, as well. If college wasn’t already enough of a juggling act, balancing motherhood adds a new element to every day, too.  

Despite the everyday inconveniences of simultaneously unraveling the responsibilities of parenthood and adulthood, it seems she’s seamlessly intertwined all the labels in her life. In fact, Orchard gives Elenora some credit for influencing her decision to pursue nursing. A medical field was always a part of her future plans, but her role as a mother pushed her to choose nursing because of the complementing qualities of nursing and motherhood.  

Mother was a label given to Orchard, not something she specifically choose, but the light in her eyes could be a key to illuminate how she feels. When holding Elenora, she seems to be consumed by a glow of happiness that resonates across her account, as well.  

“Now, being a young mom is not the only thing that defines me, just a part,” Orchard said.