WHAT’S YOUR STORY?: Patterson’s story: No statistic

Zach Mills

Latoya Patterson is no statistic. In fact, the 21-year-old Fort Campbell junior is proving that some statistics are wrong — mainly the ones that say single teenage mothers are unlikely to make it through college.

Patterson has a 2.67 GPA and is currently on course to graduate in three years with a major in economics and a minor in marketing.

Her son William is one of her motivators to finish school early.

“I want to support my son and myself,” Patterson said. “I want to provide a stable living condition for myself. And working for $5.15 and living off residual checks is getting old.”

Patterson was in high school when she found out she was pregnant.

“I was terrified,” she said. “I thought about having an abortion, but my parents didn’t allow me to do that because it was a sin to them.”

Despite Patterson’s fear of being a teenage mother, she was determined not to become another statistic.

“I got a job and continued school and got my high school diploma,” she said. “And then I came to Western.”

Patterson has her own apartment and is finding success as a single mother and a full-time college student. She also finds time to volunteer at the Housing Authority of Bowling Green where she tutors teenage girls and educates them about the realities of teenage pregnancy.

“It’s called balancing,” Patterson said. “I mean, when you’ve been taking care of someone else as long as I have, you just adapt to your environment. You make the best of your situation.”

Although some people might not find Patterson’s situation to be ideal for someone her age, she doesn’t want any sympathy.

“It hasn’t been hard for me,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a challenge — just like getting a degree is a challenge.”

Patterson’s faith has also played a role in maintaining a balance in her life.

“I pray every day,” she said. “I pray and ask God to give me strength for another day. I feel like being a single parent doesn’t make me any different from a two parent home. Two parent families struggle, too. When you have friends and a strong family behind you, then you don’t have to struggle.”

Even though Patterson has found it to be a challenge rearing a child while trying to obtain a college degree, she said motherhood is one of her greatest joys.

“I look at my son more like a brother because we’re growing up together,” she said. “I’m still trying to find out who I am, and he’s helping me do that. Being a mother is a blessing.”

Patterson hopes to rear her son the same way she was brought up. Her advice for him is simple.

“The sky is the limit,” she said. “If you want to do something, if you set your mind to it, you can do it. That’s what I was always told. The sky is the limit. And don’t let any obstacle take you off your path.”

Patterson is creating a new statistic — one people can love instead of loathe.

“I’m beating the statistics!” she said. “People say you can’t graduate high school and go to college if you have a child.

“I am a first generation college student and single mother.”

Each week, Zach picks a random person from the student directory and calls them to ask, “What’s Your Story?” His series runs every Tuesday. Zach can be reached at [email protected]