On her graduation day from Concordia University, Caitlyn Covington had a lot of cheer and support, especially from her tiniest fan — her 4-year-old daughter Elise.
In 2014, while still in high school, Caitlyn gave birth to her daughter. This was the beginning of many decisions that the teen mom would have to make. She graduated early from a high school in the Austin area that same year and began contemplating what the future would look like for her and her newborn.
The statistics were stacked against her, as more than half of teen moms drop out of high school and fewer than 2 percent finish college by age 30.
Caitlyn overcame all of those statistics, but it took a village to help her. A community of women from ACTS Church Lakeway rallied around her and decided they would support Caitlyn until she graduated from college.
“It’s been easy for us to make this contribution to her life and to Elise’s life because her drive and ambition is so huge,” said Nicole Kelley, one of the women who stepped up.
The women made a four-year-pledge that they would form what they call “Elise’s Love Club” to provide child care services for the 4-year-old whenever Caitlyn needed to be in class. For some of the women, it was like looking back in time.
“I never finished college,” said Sue Norcia, who is part of Elise’s Love Club. “So that was huge for me to want to help her do something I didn’t finish.”
With childcare taken care of, Caitlyn enrolled in Concordia University’s Adult Degree program which allowed her to be with Elise during the day and take classes at night.
Through the Tuition Equalization Grant program, Caitlyn was able to fund her dream of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business. The program, which is offered through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, provides grants to first-time students with financial need to enable them to attend private, non-profit schools in Texas as long as they maintain a certain GPA and enrollment level.
Caitlyn says the journey to the graduation stage was difficult, but she and the women around her want others to know that having a baby at a young age does not have to stop their dreams.