HAYWARD, Calif. (KTVU) - A Bay Area mother graduated from college and says she did it all for her son Jayden.
Dani Leones was pregnant when she started college at California State University, East Bay and had just turned 19-years-old when her son Jayden was born.
He arrived during finals week but Leones didn't let contractions get in the way as she turned in her 10-page research paper to her English professor.
Leones tells KTVU it was a huge balancing act but it was important to her to finish school. I sacrificed my sleep to get most of my assignments and studying done while Jaden was asleep. "I had to work harder than most. I had times where I lost the drive and motivation to finish. I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel - I nearly lost myself in the process," she said.
Leones says she had a great support system since her significant other who is Jayden's dad supported her financially while she went to school. In the beginning Leones took every other quarter off and while it was hard, she pushed toward her goal. "I felt like it was too much for me and (I) couldn’t handle the breakdowns about balancing the responsibilities of being a full-time student and mom. But I persevered - I decided that I needed to get it together for Jaden. I sacrificed my time with my son and continued to take 16 unit course loads consistently and stopped taking quarter breaks."
As time went on she also took on a part time job.
A main driver was to ensure Jayden had someone to look up to. "I hope one day he’ll look back and realize from my story is that nothing is impossible, no matter what obstacles you face in life," she said.
The amount of joy and excitement Jayden had at graduation made it all worthwhile, said Leones.