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‘We Did It!’: Tennessee Woman Who Finished College with Honors Despite Being a Teen Mom Now Celebrates Daughter’s High School Graduation

Tennessee mother Jerica Phillips could not have been more proud than when she celebrated her daughter Jaidah’s high school graduation. The milestone was made that much more sentimental as Phillips recounted being in her daughter’s position; the only difference is she already had a child.

“We did it! Motherhood has been my biggest flex. I birthed this beautiful girl my senior year of high school,” wrote Phillips in a LinkedIn post acknowledging the 17-year-old’s achievement. “I’m so proud of what we’ve done TOGETHER. #BeatingTheOdds #Classof2021”

Then versus now: Jerica Phillips shared photos of her and daughter Jaidah in celebration of the teen graduating from high school. (Photo: @jericaphilips/Instagram)

The post spread like wildfire across social media, even making its way onto the radar of
“Good Morning America” where Phillips shared more about her and Jaidah’s journey through life together. Even with the day-to-day struggles of being a teen mother, Phillips said she kept her eyes on the greater picture: affording her daughter the best life she deserved.

“My parents gave me a great life and I knew that she deserved it no matter what tough decisions I had made,” she told GMA. “I wanted to sacrifice whatever it was going to take to give her the life that she deserved, the opportunities and exposure that she deserved.”

Phillips graduated from high school in the top percent of her class and attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on an academic scholarship. Jaidah, then just a baby, was with her every step of the way. “She’s affectionately known as the’ college baby’ of University of Tennessee, Knoxville because she was on campus with me from day one. With God’s grace, I maintained a full academic scholarship and graduated with honors,” wrote Phillips in her post.

The first-generation college graduate said her village of supporters — which included Jaidah’s father, her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, friends, and family — made achieving her goals possible. “All of that encouraged me and just pushed me to keep going,” she said. And when her college graduation came around, in 2008, Jaidah was there just as she had been any other day on campus.

“That made it mean so much more for me, to have my parents there and especially to have [Jaidah] by my side to allow her to see that she can do anything, that if I could achieve my dream, she could dream even wilder.”

Phillips went on to marry Jaidah’s father, her high school sweetheart, and have three more children. Professionally she worked as a television news reporter and anchor before assuming her current role as a communications strategist for the Shelby County Public Schools in Tennessee.

Now, it is time for Jaidah to fly the coop as she pursues her collegiate dreams at Texas Southern University. “She’s been by my side since I was 17 years old. Now that she’s 17, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is real,’ ” said Phillips. “I want her to dream and do whatever it is that she wants to do that’s even greater than what I have done.”

Jaidah (left) and her mother Jerica Phillips pose for a photo on the campus of Texas Southern University. (Photo: @origianl_jai/Instagram)

On social media, countless people have shared how Phillips and Jaidah’s story has been awe-inspiring.

“👏👏👏 Awesome example”

“I wish I had known this was possible when I had my daughter right after graduation. I did know it was never to late and went back later.”

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