Beating The Odds: from teen pregnancy to attorney

I gave birth to my daughter April 8, 1996.  I was 13 years old, in the 8th grade at Joy Middle School. Yes, it really was the first time I had sex and yes Jasmine was born without anyone being the wiser. I got pregnant in August and delivered in April and I never told a soul. I had convinced myself I wasn’t pregnant and eventually I would wake up and “it” would all go away. My mother, Jasmine’s father, and my family all found out I was pregnant and had given birth the very same day. No prenatal medicine, no routine doctor’s visits, and the night before I gave birth I went to basketball practice. I was too afraid to tell anybody out of fear of what would happen.

As the only girl with four older brothers, being a teenage parent was not an option. I wish I could have told my father. But, he died in 1985 when I was three. I decided that I did not want to become the stereotypical unwed mother who depends on government assistance in order to sustain her family’s survival. My mother, who was a bus driver for SMART for 30 years and owner of her own Commercial Drivers License Company taught me that as a young black girl I would have to work twice as hard if I ever wanted to be successful. She told me people would expect me to fail, have more children, and not graduate from high school. I took that negative perception of me and used it as fuel for my fire.  I changed the way I viewed the world and realized that it is not the situations that we are placed in that ultimately shape our lives: it is our reaction to them that defines our world.

I graduated from the University of Michigan at 21 years old and took a job with an educational consulting firm administering tutoring programs. I found myself working with disenfranchised youth helping them to excel academically. I was later hired by the NAACP as the Assistant to the Regional Director of the Youth and College Division.

May 2006, hungry to make a socio-economic impact in Detroit, I left the NAACP and enrolled at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and graduated. I took the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) Exam and passed the first time! I was sworn into the SBM November 24, 2010. Five months later,  I was hired by Congressman Hansen Clarke and now serve as his Community Grants Coordinator. I have written over 250 letters of support for businesses and non-profits in Metro Detroit securing more than $8 million in funding.

At 30-years-old, I love Detroit now more than ever! As an attorney in the State of Michigan, my passion to advocate for positive social change is why I am dedicated to showing people they have what it takes to overcome the odds. Remove your self doubt and dream big! Keep saying “I can and I will!” until you “Do!”

To learn more about Jacquise A. Purifoy, Esq.’s speaking engagements follow her on twitter @jpurifoyspeaks.  Watch for the launch of www.jacquisepurifoy.com

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