Lauren Crawford, aged 27 from Ballymena, said her experience has only made her more determined to end the stigma associated with being a teenage mum.
In 2011, Lauren gave birth to her son Paul, now aged 11, which meant leaving school at the young age of 15.
“I had Paul just before I turned 16 and while I can say hand on heart, he is the best thing to ever happen to me, becoming a mother at such a young age dramatically changed the trajectory of my life and the sudden change is something no one can really prepare you for,” said Lauren.
“I really struggled with trying to figure out what was next for me in terms of education and building a life for us both.
“I had been told from the age of 16 by numerous people that because I was a young single mother that my dream of studying law someday was over and that I set my sights on something easier to achieve and to ‘aim lower’.”
Despite her struggles, Lauren was passionate about fulfilling her dream of studying and was determined to be a successful role model for Paul. She took her GCSEs and A Levels and was successful in achieving top results.
“Hearing those words “aim lower” only made me more determined to succeed in trying to end the stereotype and stigma around being a young mother, and to show that it is indeed possible to have a child at a young age and still study at university.
“It hasn’t been easy finding that balance between university and my home life, but I have a wonderful family that has supported me throughout my time at Queen’s.
“It has been difficult as my grandad had been very sick during the last few years and sadly passed away in May just after my last exam, but he was always so supportive and wanted me to continue with my studies regardless of how ill he had been; he knew how important it was to not only me, but for Paul, to prove you can successfully get back into education at any age.”
Following her graduation with a Bachelor of Law degree from the School of Law, Lauren plans to take a year off to work and intends to study for her Master’s in International Human Rights Law at Queen’s the following year.
Looking positively to the future, Lauren said: “Paul is getting ready to start secondary school in September. He is a wonderful child, and I can’t wait to see what he achieves in the future.
“He has been great at dealing with how busy I have been the past three years while studying at Queen’s. I wanted to make sure he understands, from a young age, the importance of further education and of fulfilling your dreams.”