Tracy Moronatty didn’t tell anyone when she found out she was pregnant. The 19-year-old freshman at Southwest Community College in San Diego was broke, on bad terms with the baby’s dad, and utterly overwhelmed. She kept her secret for six months, until her bump grew too big to hide. That’s when she finally shared the news with her mom, who offered to help raise the child if Tracy moved with her to Los Angeles. Without other options, she agreed: At the end of the spring semester, her July due date looming, Tracy dropped out of school and moved to the L.A. suburbs.
But she didn’t want to give up her dream of getting a degree. Soon after she arrived, Tracy walked her big belly up a hill to the admissions office at nearby Rio Hondo Community College and registered for fall semester. She started classes that August, leaving infant Noe at home with her mom. At first, things seemed like they were going to work out fine. But then she and her mom had a falling out, and with no one to watch Noe, Tracy dropped out again.
It wouldn’t be the first — or the last — time that would happen. In 2013, when Tracy was 23, she tried to return to school again. To make it work, she enrolled Noe in two different daycares; it was the only way she could get the right coverage at a price she could afford. Between her three part-time jobs, the four-hour blocks of math and Chicano studies, and the 20-minute schlep on the 605 between the nurseries, Tracy was missing too much class and Noe was missing too much nap time.
“It was very stressful on him, very stressful on me,” Tracy says, looking back. Ultimately, she finished the school year with enough credits …read more