EVERETT — After becoming a mom at 16, Fernanda Perez dropped out of Everett High School.
It wasn’t the first time she’d faced a challenge to her education after immigrating from El Salvador at 13.
After a year’s hiatus, Perez returned to school at Sequoia High. Now 19, she’s set to graduate in June.
Perez uses television and books to sharpen her English skills. She recently started watching “Grey’s Anatomy” to help her study for anatomy and physiology vocabulary quizzes.
She maintains a full-time class load while caring for her daughter, Kayla, and working a weekend job. Next year, she hopes to attend Everett Community College before transferring to a four-year university to study medicine. She recently won the EvCC Feather Star Scholarship, which gives her $1,000 toward college classes.
Question: Why do you want to become a doctor?
Answer: My baby used to get sick a lot and it impassioned me to help other kids. She used to get seizures and used to have eczema on her face, it was really bad. And I couldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t know anything.
Q: What’s your weekend job?
A: I work at the Bay Cafe. It’s in Ballard. I’m a hostess.
Q: How long have you been doing that for?
A: Almost two years now.
Q: How do you balance school, working and being a mom?
A: I try to get my stuff done in school, so when I get home, I don’t have any homework and can spend time with my baby. Sometimes when she falls asleep I’ll do my own stuff, like cleaning up.
Q: Tell me about your daughter.
A: Her name is Kayla Jane. She likes My Little Ponies, and she loves books. She’s started speaking Spanish and English now. She’s gonna be 3 in May.
Q: What’s a challenge you have overcome?
A: Learning English. I went to the Seattle World School, it’s a school for English-learning people who don’t know any English. So they’re from different countries. I figured out a way to stop talking to my friends who spoke Spanish and hang out with people that spoke different languages than I. Watching TV and reading helped me a lot.
Q: Why did you choose Sequoia?
A: When I first got pregnant I was going to Mountlake Terrace High School. And then my mom moved to Everett, so I had to go to Everett High. I didn’t like (it). … I didn’t hear about Sequioa until two years ago from my nurse (at Nurse Family Partnership, a program for young, first-time moms).
Q: What do you like about it?
A: I like that I can choose my own schedule, and that there aren’t a lot of students in classes. So if I have questions or if I’m confused about something I can ask.
Q: What is something that has helped you find success in life?
A: My daughter. She helped me to understand that life is not easy, and you learn from your mistakes. And it’s OK to make mistakes because we are humans.
Q: What’s something about yourself that you’re really proud of?
A: I’m proud to be a teen mom. And I’m proud to be Salvadoran.
Q: What’s some advice you would give to other teen moms?
A: To never give up on their dreams. Know it’s gonna be hard, in your own way, but it’s gonna be worth it.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.