CAPSHAW — When the plus sign appeared just more than two years ago, Molly Bates thought her dream of graduating from high school was over.
The home test confirmed what her mother already knew: The then-15-year-old was pregnant.
It wasn’t over.
Molly will graduate on time today with her East Limestone High School Class of 2013 because of her family, her fiance’ and the Ombudsman Center. Ombudsman is an alternative school program for students who fall behind academically.
“I’m so thrilled I could do cartwheels,” Molly’s mother, Elizabeth Bates, said of her daughter’s graduation.
Molly was one of 43 Limestone County students this year to complete graduation requirements at the Athens center.
Limestone County Superintendent Thomas Sisk said the Ombudsman Center has given many students like Molly a second chance.
“It’s wonderful that she places such a value on a diploma that she is willing to sacrifice time away from her child to earn it,” Sisk said.
Molly remembers clearly the day she found out she was pregnant. Her mom noticed the baby bump on her 98-pound daughter and brought home a pregnancy test.
“I was so scared,” Molly said. “And I was so disappointed in myself. I thought I’d have to quit school and get a job so I could raise my kid.”
But she continued with school even though that meant dealing with the stares and getting called names by some of her classmates.
Molly said one of the hard things was not being able to continue her barrel racing. She could ride her horse, Desperado, in a walk, but galloping or running was not allowed.
“That was so tough because I love to ride,” Molly said.
Molly had complications late in her pregnancy and was put on bed rest during the final 10 days. Add another six weeks out of school after her little girl, Paisley, was born on Nov. 22, 2011, and Molly was officially behind academically.
Molly began attending the Ombudsman Center daily from noon until 4. The shorter class schedule allowed her to work at Taco Bell and made it easier to find a baby sitter.
Molly said she liked the center because its four teachers could provide more individual attention. The classes are a combination of small-group work and individual computer work. She took the required core classes, plus parenting, music appreciation and fine arts.
“The parenting class was really helpful,” Molly said. “It taught me how to wean my child off of a bottle.”
The stress of juggling child, school and work became too much for the young mother. She ended up at Decatur General West because of a bout with depression.
“My life was crazy,” Molly said. “I was so stressed.”
That put her even further behind academically. She began to wonder again in January if graduation was in her future.
“I realized I still had all of my senior credits left,” she said. “I went into panic mode.”
Her mom also wondered if Molly would make it. It helped to have a big family that has been willing to help as needed, Elizabeth Bates said. “There’s been a lot of worrying in the past two years,” Elizabeth Bates said. “There were so many times she seemed to make it harder on herself than it had to be.”
Finishing high school keeps other dreams alive. She plans to marry Paisley’s dad, Michael Adams, in June, and attend Calhoun Community College in the fall. She hopes to become a veterinarian.
They got one blessing in addition to the diploma: Paisley. The 18-month-old is a happy, playful child, Molly said.
“I know I wasn’t ready for her coming,” Elizabeth Bates said. “And I know it’s been hard, but Paisley makes it all worth it.”