Support and sacrifice paved the way for teen mom to eventually become a lawyer
Telling my mother that I was pregnant was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I felt as if I could see her heart break at that very moment. But how else could I have expected her to react to her 16-year-old high school junior announcing that she was going to have a baby? This certainly couldn’t have been what my mother had in mind for my future when she left Mexico at the age of 27 to marry my father. She thought her future children would have a better life in the U.S.
As a family, we had already known years of struggle and poverty, and now here I was telling my mom that I was going to be a teen mother. We were living in a public housing development on the west side of San Antonio at the time. While living there, I had seen drive-by shootings, drug paraphernalia lying on the ground and drug sales happening out in the open. This was the environment I was bringing my child into.
My son Marc was born the same month I started my senior year of high school. Every school day, I got up in time to get myself ready for school and my son ready for day care. I took public transportation to school, rain or shine, while toting an infant, diaper bag, stroller and backpack. On weekends, my mom refused to watch my son or take over my responsibilities for him so that I could continue the life of a carefree teenager. I had to grow up really fast—and I did.
My love and interest in the law started in high school, where I took constitutional law and legal research classes, participated in mock trials, and discussed case law each day in the magnet program at Fox Tech High School. However, because of my circumstances, law school seemed like a far-fetched dream. In June 2001, I graduated from high school with my 10-month-old son in the audience. I entered community college right afterward and was determined to break the cycle of poverty. I didn’t want to have to carry groceries home on the bus anymore; I didn’t want to live in public housing with cinderblock walls anymore; and I knew our ticket out was my education. After obtaining my associate degree, I went on to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2006, the same year my second son James was born. I went on to graduate summa cum laude with my bachelor’s in management in 2009.
The University of Texas at Austin School of Law had always been my dream law school, so when I got the call that I had been accepted, I was ecstatic! Not only had I gotten in, I had also received two scholarships that would cover a substantial part of my tuition. Everything seemed to be going great. Little did I know that a tiny surprise was already on his way.
In early 2013, I learned my third child would be born at the end of my first semester of law school. As if that wasn’t daunting enough, it became clear my relationship with his father was not going to survive a move to Austin for me to attend law school. However, after talking with my mom about my situation, she told me she had my back. That’s all I needed to hear to know I’d make it through law school as a single mother. My mother, my sons and I moved to Austin a few months later.
Toughing it out
Being pregnant in law school was quite an experience. Some people asked intrusive questions about my situation and marital status. More than one person looked at my belly and asked me how I expected to make it through law school, not knowing I had two other children at home. As a 1L, you deal with enough stress and self-doubt, so those kinds of comments made it even more difficult for me. Nevertheless, I survived my first semester, and my son Adam came into this world two weeks after my last final exam. Any stress or doubts I felt about law school disappeared as soon as he was in my arms. Instantly, I felt a renewed sense of determination.
I returned to school for my second semester of my 1L year when Adam was only about 2 weeks old, and my grades actually improved. I even found time to participate in extracurricular activities.
During my third year, I became the president of the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association and the managing editor for the Texas Environmental Law Journal. Thanks to my mother’s help with my kids during this time, I had some of the best years of my life during law school and made such amazing friends while there.
The University of Texas allows law students to walk the stage with their children. All the students who saw me walking around with my baby bump to Con Law and torts classes that first semester got to see my son Adam walk himself across the stage with me and his big brothers at graduation.
Marc was 15, James was 9, and Adam was 2 at that time. My heart burst with pride for my sons, who had roughed it out with my mom and me during those years.
With everything happening in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not be more grateful that I put in the hard work and made the investment in myself and my education all those years ago. I am extremely fortunate to have a great job with a law firm practicing education and employment law where, during the COVID-19 shutdown, I have been able to work from home and provide for my family.
The label “teen mom” can carry such a negative connotation. No one would expect someone who came from a poor background and had a child before she even became an adult to beat the odds and accomplish her dream of becoming an attorney. By sharing my story, I want others to know that they are capable of so much more than what society may believe. You are absolutely worth the investment in yourself. You’ve got this!
Jasmine Grant currently resides in San Antonio with her three sons, Marc, 19; James, 13; and Adam, 6. She is currently an associate at Schulman, Lopez, Hoffer & Adelstein where she practices, among other things, state and local government law, education law and employment law. Her legal education was financed, in part, by the ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which relies on charitable donations from law firms, individuals, ABA Entities and foundations.
#MyPathToLaw is a guest column that celebrates the diversity of the legal profession through attorneys’ first-person stories detailing their unique and inspiring trajectories. This story was originally published in the August-September 2020 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Support and Sacrifice.”