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Jasmine Lofton’s path to success was not always a straight line. After becoming a mother at age 17, she worked long hours waiting tables just to keep the bills paid. It would be two years before she enrolled in college, but she never stopped dreaming of a better life for her and her son, Jasen. 

This summer, six years after graduating high school, she finished her last class at Eastern Kentucky University, graduating with a 3.9 GPA and attaining her dream job teaching Spanish at Model Laboratory School.

 “Providing a better life and future for my son drives me to succeed in school,” she said. “I know that with a degree I can find a steady career that will support me and my son.”

Jasmine Lofton and son, Jasen at graduationNot only that, she is driven by her desire to not become a statistic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that 50 percent of teen parents don’t graduate high school. 

“I am also determined to beat the odds as a teen parent and set an example for other people in my situation,” she added. “I want other young, single parents to see that it is possible and there are resources available to help them succeed in school.”

During her studies, Lofton became adept at taking advantage of those resources. She enrolled in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System two years after graduating high school, in 2015. Two years later, she earned an associate of arts degree. 

The support and opportunities available for student parents at EKU made it the obvious choice for completing her bachelor’s degree in Spanish teaching. Upon enrollment, she earned the Colonel Plus merit scholarship and the Summer Scholarship for her final summer term, which helped her keep student loan debt to a minimum. 

Beyond financial aid, Lofton has found a welcoming, supportive community on campus. The Center for Student Parents provided advising services and parenting help. It also helped her attain on-campus employment in EKU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, allowing her to provide for herself and her son while working around her class schedule. 

“As a teen parent, I have never felt judged at EKU,” she said. “Everyone is so encouraging and that also motivates me to succeed because I know people believe in me.”

One such person is Abbey Poffenberger, chair of the Spanish department at EKU and one of Lofton’s mentors. Poffenberger played a crucial role in helping Lofton land her dream job. 

“She really advocated for me, as she does for all her students when she finds a good fit for them,” Lofton said. “I think she, and many of the professors at EKU, are dedicated to student success on a personal level.” 

Poffenberger said the support was well-deserved, calling Lofton a natural leader who “exudes kindness.” 

“Jasmine is an excellent student and role model with a strong work ethic and desire to learn. She inspires others and lifts people around her to be their best,” Poffenberger said. “She regularly takes advantage of extra-curricular opportunities to engage with the local Latino community in order to improve her Spanish and cultural competency.”

At Model, Lofton will be in on the ground floor of a new biliteracy initiative. The goal is to teach elementary-age children not only to speak Spanish, but to read and write in the language as well. She is enrolled in the master of arts in teaching program at EKU, which she will begin in the fall. The program qualifies her to teach through Kentucky’s Option 6 certification pathway, which will allow her to teach for three years while earning full teacher certification. She will graduate from the master’s program in 2021 with full credentials. 

“I love that EKU offered an alternative pathway to reach my goal. Entering the MAT program and having my own classroom is much more suitable for my lifestyle as a single parent,” she said. 

Despite a few delays and obstacles, Lofton found success at EKU. As she begins her job at Model, she now calls Richmond, Kentucky, home, having moved from Lexington. She even enrolled Jasen, now 7 years old, at Model School where she teaches.

“I have accomplished what I came here to accomplish, which was to become a Spanish teacher,” she said. “That’s my dream job … I’ll stay as long as they’ll keep me.”