Teen mom takes long road to diploma
Cassie Anderson is used to the unexpected.
After struggling in school, an unplanned pregnancy at 16 proved nothing in her life could be anticipated - even, it turns out, an accomplishment.
On Friday, the Fargo high school dropout and teen mom will prove her skeptics wrong for doubting she'd catch up enough to gain a diploma.
With her family, now 3-year-old son and 32 fellow graduates cheering her on, the 20-year-old Woodrow Wilson Community High School student will receive her diploma.
"My life has been a big struggle," she said. "I didn't think (graduation) was going to happen. It's overwhelming."
It wasn't an easy - or traditional - path to the graduation stage.
By the time Anderson reached Fargo South High School, she'd experimented with and received treatment for drug use and, at 16, found out she was pregnant.
"I just started crying ... it was a big blow to my life," she said, adding that she thought: "What am I going to do now?"
When her family moved to West Fargo, she struggled to fit in at a new school, opting to drop out instead. Pregnant, she worked at McDonald's until her son, Alijah Roy, was born in 2007.
Becoming a teen mom, she said, encouraged her to grow up; unemployment later forced her to.
Having nowhere else to go, she re-enrolled last fall in Fargo's alternative high school. Her sole motivator, she said: her young son.
"If I didn't have him, I think I would've went down the wrong path," she added.
However, with only five of the 22 high school credits needed to graduate, she was told she likely wouldn't be able to catch up in the short time.
It seems no one planned on her will and determination.
Taking night classes and online courses, Anderson juggled school, work, raising her son and volunteering at church. In two years, she gained 17 credits, even making the honor roll.
"She stuck with it," her mom, Lynette, said. "Her grades tell the story."
While Anderson credits her family, son and school, teacher Colleen Taylor said it's the 20-year-old that deserves the praise.
"She was focused on that diploma even though she'd be older than most," Taylor said. "She understands fully how important it is for her education because it will impact her son's."
Anderson plans to attend Minnesota State Community and Technical College this fall. She's also back working at McDonald's to save up for a car and apartment of her own before someday starting a career (perhaps Microsoft, she mused).
Overcoming challenges to graduate this year has, after all, proved to her and others that she can achieve what she puts her mind to.
"That's what makes her outstanding - she never lost sight of her goals," Taylor said. "We're very proud of her."