Tayla Connor and her son Arlo. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Tayla Connor was the only one in her family who ever finished school and got qualifications.
So, when she found out she was pregnant at 19 years old, she felt she had let everyone down.
Now, 20, and a proud mum at the Wairarapa Teen Parent Unit in Masterton, she hopes to prove that having a child at a young age “doesn’t stop you from achieving great things”.
“It only stops you if you let it.”
The Wairarapa College graduate had worked for two years after leaving school.
She had an agriculture certificate and a certificate in tourism.
But within the two years since leaving school, Tayla became pregnant with her son Arlo, who is now just over a year old.
“I was the only one in my family that ever finished school and got qualifications, so no one expected it would be me that would have a child at such a young age,” she said.
“They all said I was going to go far, get a good job – when they found out I was pregnant, they were kind of disappointed in a way, but happy as well.”
She first visited the Teen Parent Unit (TPU) at Makoura College when Arlo was four-and-a-half months old.
“I was put onto the Youth Parent payment and I had to do a budgeting course.
“So, I came here to do it for two days.
“I had no idea who any of the girls were – but I ended up becoming good friends with a couple of them over those two days and then I wanted to come back.
“I wasn’t studying at the time and I wanted to continue studying, so I talked to Prue (Teen Parent Unit manager Prue Smith) and I got to have a look around.
“I wanted to give it a try, so I thought I would sign up and come here.
“It’s probably the best decision I have made.”
When Arlo was six months old, Tayla moved to Waipukurau to be with her son’s father, but she continued to attend the TPU a few days each week.
Tayla said she had always “loved school”.
“I didn’t want to just sit at home and do nothing all day, I really wanted to continue my studying.”
She said she was inspired by many of the other girls at TPU, all of whom had become mothers at a much younger age.
“We are all still studying and working on our futures while we have got kids.
“Having a child doesn’t stop you from achieving great things.
“If you want to do something in your life, you do need to do it.
“Even with a kid, it might take longer, but you can still do it.”
She said there were days that were a “struggle” – “but you take the good with the bad”.
Tayla has been offered employment in the rural sector at the end of this year in Waipukurau.