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Erica Petty
OVPSDD
epetty@indiana.edu
812-856-5700

George Vlahakis
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Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2003

IU Feature: Student mom takes charge of her life

EDITORS: This feature article was written by Erica Petty, an IU journalism and history student from Muncie, Ind. Publication-quality photographs are available for download from the Web at http://www.iuinfo.indiana.edu/avmedia/studentmom. To arrange for an interview with Lynell Westbrook, contact Erica at 812-856-5700.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Being a full-time student at Indiana University Bloomington is hard enough for some people. Imagine working 31 hours a week, attending classes 16 hours a week, and at the same time attending to a 3-year-old. That is a typical week for Muncie, Ind., native Lynell Westbrook.

At the age of 16, Westbrook gave birth to her son, Devion "D.J." Layne. Despite the great amount of responsibility, she did not let her situation slow her down. "I was just too ambitious," she said.

Westbrook gave birth just three days before the first day of high school. She stayed home for the first six weeks of school, home-schooled herself, and still achieved a 3.5 G.P.A. at the end of the high school semester.

Before D.J. came along, Westbrook had every intention of attending college. Even though at the time being a mother seemed like a setback, she never doubted that she would pursue a college degree.

"I knew I had become a statistic as a young mother, but I didn't want to be an all-around statistic," she said.

Now that Westbrook is a sophomore at IU Bloomington, she has become more involved in campus life and single motherhood. Every morning, she gets up at around 7:30 a.m. to get herself and D.J. ready for a busy day. They leave the house by around 8:15 a.m. She takes D.J. to day care, and then she is off to one of her two jobs. After a couple of hours of work, she attends classes. It is usually not until 5 p.m. that she is able to leave campus and pick up D.J. from day care.

Westbrook's day does not stop there. She has become an active student on campus. She is a member of Voices of Hope, vice president for external affairs of the Central Black Student Union, service chair for Mass Black Student Union, a member of Community Service Corps and more.

After all her meetings and classes, it is D.J. time. Westbrook said she tries to spend as much time with him as possible. A lot of her weekend time goes to D.J. also. Even with all of this, she still finds time to study. She developed a routine during her freshman year of college which she continues today. She studies at night after D.J. goes to bed and on the weekends.

When it comes to help with D.J., Westbrook is usually on her own. While she is in class or at work, D.J. is in day care, but afterward he is with her nearly all the time, including at meetings for class or student activities.

One of the setbacks Westbrook has experienced in being a young mother is that she is playing catch-up with some of her peers. A lot of her peers were involved in activities during their freshman year. She feels she could have explored more opportunities if she had not had to work so hard and if her time hadn't been so precious.

Despite some setbacks, Westbrook has set her goals high. She hopes to receive her undergraduate degree in psychology, a master's degree in counseling psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology.