Aubrey was your typical high schooler. She lived in a suburban home. She was an excellent student who had high grades. She had a happy family with her needs provided for. She was making plans for her high school graduation and college career.
Then everything changed. According to Aubrey, “In high school, I made decisions that moved me away from my faith, and I fell in love with a guy who did not love or treat me the right way.” I found out I was pregnant with my son during my senior year of high school. I was terrified and was not sure what to do. My family was also not the most supportive then, and I did not have a secure living situation. My son’s father and his family had also disappeared, and I had no support…I was completely alone…”
When Aubrey finally reached her boyfriend, he wanted her to get an abortion. Aubrey recalled “feeling so lost and scared…one day breaking down and crying.” She had been raised Catholic and didn’t believe in abortion! Her family’s reaction went beyond disappointment. Her father stopped communicating with Aubrey.
Aubrey was at a breaking point. She googled for help and found Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center in Tampa, a Catholic Charities-run program offering women facing unplanned pregnancies confidential counseling, basic ultrasound and other services with the goal of helping women choose life for their unborn child. Aubrey was “greeted with kindness and no judgment. Consequently, Aubrey made a life-changing decision. She chose life!
Aubrey graduated high school as part of a dual enrollment program with Pasco-Hernando State College. Immediately after graduation she moved to the dorms at Florida State University (FSU). To fund her college, she worked part time at Panera Bread and applied for and was awarded a scholarship by Moffitt Cancer Center Healthy KIDZ Program Awards. She had applied for and was accepted by the University of Florida’s (UF) Online Education program. The online school would give her the flexibility that would allow her to be both a mother to her son and a student! Only two weeks into her start, during the spring of 2020, Aubrey gave birth to her son, Vincent! Aubrey and Vincent navigated her UF college career together. Vincent was born with a flat skull that required him to wear a protective helmet until it grew to cover his brain. He also was missing part of his pupil in his left eye and had to wear a patch on his good eye to strengthen the at risk one. As Vincent got older, she loved his interest in her work. “It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to do school while watching him; also being able to see to his interest in my education be part of it and watching him come over and watch lectures. It’s been an amazing experience.” Aubrey’s relationship with her family “was a difficult situation that, thanks to God, was mended by Vincent.” Aubrey and her family reconciled after “my parents met him and instantly fell in love.” Vincent also mended another relationship: “He changed my life…and restored my relationship with God.”
While at UF Online, Aubrey was able to participate virtually in nearly all the UF conferences and symposiums. She excelled at research. Examples include:
- Utilizing a Comparative Analysis with Women and Men’s Perceptions and Uptake of Kratom – will explore associations between gender identity and why they use Kratom.
- Virtual Human Colorectal Cancer Screening Intervention Comparing and Coding the African American and Caucasian Data Sets.
- Exploring the Proposed Voting bills in Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee and New Mexico Following the 2020 Election
- on campus working with the Beyond 120 Young Professionals Communications Committee.
Her work was valued. One example was when the Center for Undergraduate Research “found my work on the ‘Use of Weight Control Strategies And Perceived Barriers To Healthy Eating: Predictors Of Weight Among Black Women Patients With Obesity ‘to be of particular interest and invited me to give a Tiny Talk at the upcoming Student Research Symposium.” When possible, she was present in person, sharing her research on differences in hearing based on gender. In fact, among her many volunteer efforts, Aubrey would be on campus in Gainesville working with the Beyond 120 Young Professionals Communications Committee. In a moment of serendipity, Aubrey was selected to attend a virtual Moffit Cancer Center show. The full-circle nature of this opportunity was not lost on Aubrey: “Who would have thought that three years later I would have been selected to present at the virtual FACCA meeting organized by Moffitt. It is such an amazing honor to represent the UF Health Cancer Center and present my poster on Preferences for gender-concordance during interactions with a virtual health assistant: Qualitative analysis of cancer communication intervention in rural White adults.”
As her college career wound down, Aubrey was shocked when she received a letter in the mail selecting her for membership as a University of Florida Hall of Fame member! Aubrey graduated from the University of Florida in 2023 with her liberal arts bachelor’s degree with dual majors in psychology and sociology. On August 30th, she spoke before the UF Board of Governors about ways universities can help student parents. Aubrey is now attending University of Florida’s Frederic G. Levin College of Law and is a candidate for her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 2025. She hopes to find a husband who will “love and support my son and me.” She would like to adopt to “open my home to give another child the love and support they deserve.” She wants to use her law degree to help people in the field of health care law. Importantly, she also intends to “give back and assist” Catholic Charities “because they helped us through our most difficult moments.”