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Pregnant at 14, and thriving

Teen Parent Unit Manager Prue Smith, left, with former student Kelsi McWilliams. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

Emily Norman

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Being pregnant at the age of 14 was no barrier to success for Kelsi McWilliams.

Almost a decade on the former Teen Parent Unit student is an ambitious mother of three and social worker for Child Youth and Family in Wellington.

She was a key speaker at the Teen Parent Unit’s (TPU) 2016 Celebration of Success end of year event.

The TPU was established in 2002 and is based on the grounds of Makoura College in Masterton.

It gives teen parents or pregnant teenagers a chance to reach their educational goals while entering parenthood.

Kelsi’s journey with the TPU started in 2008 when she became pregnant with her first daughter at the age of 14.

She chose not to adopt out.

“After falling pregnant you have so many decisions to make because it’s not just about you anymore, it’s about this little life that you’re going to welcome in,” she said.

“Being 14 and pregnant you have a lot of people who say, it’s over for you now, and good luck reaching where you want to get in the future with a child.

“I just want to say that, no, teen pregnancy does not prevent you from living out your dreams.”

When Kelsi finished school, she studied to get marketing and management qualifications and a degree in social work.

“During that time I have had two other children, and I’m not going to lie, it has been a struggle,” she said.

“There are struggles and you stay up late at night in tears, and you stress, and you have early mornings and other people to put first, but it’s worth it.

“It’s worth it because not only have I made myself proud and proven myself wrong, but I’ve made my family proud, I’ve made people who have supported me through this journey proud, and I’ve made my little kids proud.

“They are going to grow up and see the effort that I put in to get somewhere.

She said her daughter, who is now eight years old will continue to strive “even though she had a teen mum and we didn’t have that beautiful house or home to call our own”.

“She has been brought up on morals and she has witnessed the fact that nothing is impossible.”

Her leaving words for the handful of young mums was to know their self-worth.

“If you can go through being a teen mum and study and get out there and get motivated to find employment, that on its own says a lot about who you are.”

“You are all worthy. Know your self-worth.”

In Wairarapa there were 29 teens who gave birth in 2015, and 34 in 2014.

There were six in 2012.


  1. Kelsi, you are an inspiration to us. You are a role model for resiliency, strength and courage, not to mention a great parent, amazing friend, and now a smart career woman! Arohanui from us all. We are proud to have you as our friend.

  2. Good on you, all. Also the fathers who stood by you. But getting pregnant when you are a teenager makes life and a career so much harder for yourself. Young women please get good contraception. Take good care of yourself. Life is short.

  3. I have total admiration for you Kelsi and for your honesty in recalling the struggles involved in your journey and achieving your goals. IMany years ago I left Makoura College and became a mother at 15. I married the father of my daughter when I was 16 1/2 and went on to continue studying, working and being a mum and a wife. I also achieved my goals of becoming a teacher and also working with At Risk Youth. My greatest achievement was becoming a Deputy Principal. I wa lucky to be able to put my second daughter into a creche run by an amazing Masterton lady who was my life line. I too have been proud of my achievements and still have goals I would like to achieve. I send you true blessings for your future and wish you every success.

  4. I had the pleasure of meeting and studying with this beautiful young lady …she is an inspiration to her children and friends and family alike…well done kelsi very proud of you xxxxx

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