Chereke Lee-Vaughn

Raising a person and being a student

Chereke Lee-Vaughn gave birth to her son Raveon when she was in high school. Throughout her pregnancy, Lee-Vaughn says she went to school every day and earned all A’s — the highest her grades have ever been. In addition to going to school, Lee-Vaughn went to work after school each day and then went home to take care of her son after work. Her hard work paid off, and she was able to graduate early in December so she could start working full-time in addition to being a mom, in order to save money for college.

Her motivation, she says, is to break the cycle of poverty in her family’s history. She says she has always wanted to have children and be able to provide for them and herself; to do this, her biggest goal was to graduate from high school, and now that she’s done that, she’s working towards earning as many scholarships as she can to attend college. At college, she plans to study something that will help her secure a well-paying job in Cape Girardeau; since her family lives here and she knows the area well, she wants to stay here to build her and her son’s lives.

“I look at how my past was, how my mom grew up, and I just look at how I want my future to be for me and my baby, and that’s what I go by,” Lee-Vaughn says. “Just him. That’s my motivation, that’s everything.”

In addition to being a mom, Lee-Vaughn enjoys shopping, traveling and going to school. She likes learning about math, science and history, and she likes people.

Her mother, she says, is her “everything,” a strong support system for her who ensured Lee-Vaughn didn’t miss a day of school during her pregnancy and after her son’s birth. When naming her son, Lee-Vaughn recalled a sermon she’d heard at church, when the preacher said a name should be purpose-filled because it defines a person. After researching powerful names for her son, she thought of her mother — Raven — whom she describes as “the strongest woman” she knows, and decided to name her son after her. In naming him Raveon, she hopes her son is as strong as her mother is.

Lee-Vaughn says parents should realize their children are exposed to heavy topics at a young age and talk with their kids about these subjects early in life, even if they think their child hasn’t come in contact with those issues. Contrary to what parents might hope, with the prevalence of social media, she says their kids are already probably thinking about those topics.

From her own son, she says she learns to forgive and forget, because he doesn’t “have any intentions” with the things he does. She says he also teaches her patience, to be loving and to be a better person. And he teaches her to be happy.

“He made me stronger. He made me softer in some ways. And he also made me show my emotions a little bit better. I talk out how I feel a lot more because … I want him to know he can come to me and that I’ll go to him, so we have that kind of bond and relationship. … Every mistake, I apologize,” she says. “I can’t even express it. It just makes my heart smile to talk about him and think about him. He’s so amazing.”

Lee-Vaughn says the journey of life is not easy, and people have to fight for what they want, “regardless of whatever else comes in the way.” She encourages young parents to persevere through the challenges they face so they can create good lives for themselves and their children.

“A reach out to all the people who are young and in high school that are pregnant or had kids: Just keep going. Do not let your child stop you, do not let the statistics [dictate how your life goes],” Lee-Vaughn says. “People always knock down young parents, and really, it just should make you go harder. There is no reason your kid should stop you doing anything. It should be a bigger motivation; you have someone looking up to you, someone that’s depending on you to give them the best life possible.”

It’s a message she wants more people to hear, and now that she is paving the way for others, she is the one to say it.

“I wish someone would’ve talked to me and helped me through it, just, you know, tell me it was going to be OK,” Lee-Vaughn says. “It was a hard time, and it’s going to be a hard time, but it’s just one little patch in the road, and I promise you, in the long-run, it’s going to be so amazing.”

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