Outside the stalwart line of white columns enclosing Franklin College’s sorority suites, a young woman walks hand-in-hand with a toddler. Her dark hair is tied up and pushed aside by a turquoise headband, the sign of yet another long day. She bends down to hold her son and introduces him to the group of women surrounding the Zeta Tau Alpha suite, smiling with strength and contentment.
This year, freshman Vicki May, 22, is a familiar face on campus. The first-generation college student recently pledged as a sorority woman. Above all else, however, she’s a mother.
It was the summer of 2013. Like many, Vicki thought she had a carefully structured path to success. A graduate of Perry Meridian High School, she enrolled in her only school of choice, Franklin College.
The summer was filled with move-in preparations and prolonged goodbyes to her high school boyfriend, Teven May, before he departed for basic training for the U.S. Army.
In July 2013, Vicki came home one day to find a trail of flower petals leading to her childhood bedroom and a bouquet of roses lying on her bed, along with a ring box. Confused, she turned around to leave the room and saw Teven behind her on one knee.
Vicki said ‘yes,’ but had no intention of moving away with him at the outset. In her mind, each would work towards their individual goals. He would complete basic training and earn money in the service, and she would further her studies in elementary education. Living together and other rites of marriage would have to wait.
A week later, though, Vicki found out she was pregnant.
A CHANGE IN PLANS
“I was going to stay on campus for that first semester until the baby came. He was due in February,” she said. “That was the plan.”
Vicki began her fall semester as planned in August 2013 and resolved to not tell many people about her pregnancy. She eventually opened up to her roommate. Beyond her dorm, Vicki concealed her growing body under large T-shirts.
“By then, I realized that people weren’t going to judge me because I’m engaged and pregnant,” she said.
But as her pregnancy progressed, Vicki found it increasingly difficult to complete her work and focus in class. By October 2013, she moved home and dropped all but two courses. By the new year, she and Teven were married.
In February 2014, Vicki gave birth to their first son, Micah. Following the birth, the new family savored the three days Teven was granted for leave.
But the thought of separation proved to be too painful.
In a matter of days, Vicki packed up the only life she had ever known and moved 800 miles south to Fort Stewart, Georgia, where she would spend the next year and a half.
The family eventually migrated back to Indianapolis where Vicki and Teven worked a variety of jobs in the hospitality and retail industries to pay the bills. Within a few months, they decided to plan for a second child, leading to Vicki’s second pregnancy.
But for Vicki, something was missing.
In an effort to gain fulfillment, Vicki enrolled in Paul Mitchell’s The School, a cosmetology training program. Lacking means of transportation, Vicki would ride an old bicycle from her job at Babies“R”Us to the school, even while six months pregnant. She was unable to complete the cosmetology program, though, due to scheduling problems.
THE LION AND THE LAMB
Teven and Vicki considered homeschooling their two sons, giving her the opportunity to fulfill her dreams of teaching while being a stay-at-home mom.
While she considered the possibility, her heart lingered in classrooms beyond her home.
“In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Vicki said. “Being a homeschool mom was not going to fulfill that.”
Vicki knew she would have to go back to school. But she lacked time, money and additional resources in caring for her sons.
One day, Vicki’s father opened up to her and encouraged her to go back and finish what she started at Franklin College.
Vicki then submitted her application for readmittance. The door that she once thought had been shut forever was opened.
Then she took one step at a time, first attending the Franklin First Scholars program in the summer, and then partaking in fall sorority recruitment in between studying, caring for her sons and commuting in the late hours of the night.
With Vicki’s decision to continue her education came tensions on her marriage. Despite disagreeing with her husband, Vicki made her goals clear.
“I’m not leaving him behind, but I’m becoming more independent. I’m not a lamb. I’m becoming more of a lion. I’m not mild or meek. I’m finding my voice here at Franklin.”