Edmonton Journal

‘I can handle handle anything’

Teen pregnancy and a host of bad luck hasn’t stopped Amanda Chekowski from realizing her dreams

- Gemma Karstens- Smith gkarstens- smith@edmontonjo­urnal.com Twitter.com/gkarstenss­mith

Amanda Chekowski knows a thing or two about beating the odds.

At 15, she learned she was pregnant and was told she’d never finish high school. Many of the naysayers spoke from experience: Chekowski’s mother, aunt and sister had all been teen mothers.

“Nobody doubted my capability of doing it. They just thought that, because I’m a teen parent, I wouldn’t do it,” said Chekowski, now 18.

When Chekowski’s daughter, Janaya, was born, things got worse. After 24 hours of labour, Janaya came into the world without a pulse. Medical staff revived the newborn, but a few months later, the new mom was home alone with her daughter when the baby had a seizure. Another hospital stay revealed that Janaya has hypopituit­arism, meaning her pituitary gland doesn’t release hormones the way it should. Doctors said she would be legally blind and have learning disabiliti­es.

Today, Janaya is an energetic twoand-a-half year old with a lion’s mane of chocolate-coloured curls. While she’s small for her age, and has to take several medication­s, Janaya is able to see and can count to 40 on her own.

“She took everything everyone said she was going to be, crumpled it up and threw it back at them,” Chekowski said.

So has Janaya’s young mother.

Chekowski enrolled at Braemar School, which is partnered with the Terra Program to help teen mothers make it through high school. She earned top marks while balancing parenting and working at a retail job part-time.

It all was nearly derailed in late February, when she and a friend were hit by a car as they walked across a road at a crosswalk. The collision left Chekowski with torn knee ligaments, and forced her to take two months off school.

She put away the crutches and finished her course work just in time to walk across the graduation stage last week as Janaya cheered her on.

“I can’t even describe how good it feels,” Chekowski said.

In September, she will be the first woman in her family to attend university when she starts studying at MacEwan University to become a crime scene investigat­or.

It’s been a tough haul, but Chekowski says being a teen parent has prepared her for her future.

“If I can handle a two-year-old, high school, working, being single and trying to figure my life out, I can handle anything,” she said.

Having Janaya by her side makes it all worthwhile.

“Everything I do now is enjoyed that much more because I get to see her smiling.”

 ??  ?? Chekowski
Chekowski
 ??  ?? Mother and daughter walk home from daycare after school.
Mother and daughter walk home from daycare after school.
 ??  ?? Chekowski works at her part time job in an Edmonton retail store.
Chekowski works at her part time job in an Edmonton retail store.
 ??  ?? Mother and
Mother and
 ??  ?? Amanda Chekowski receives her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony held at Concordia College on Friday, June 22.
Amanda Chekowski receives her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony held at Concordia College on Friday, June 22.
 ??  ?? Mother and daughter, Janaya, in matching dresses made by Chekowski’s mom, Tara, for her daughter’s Grade 12 graduation ceremony.
Mother and daughter, Janaya, in matching dresses made by Chekowski’s mom, Tara, for her daughter’s Grade 12 graduation ceremony.
 ??  ?? Chekowski
Chekowski
 ??  ?? In social studies class at Braemar
In social studies class at Braemar
 ??  ?? Chekowski shares a moment with her daughter during a meal with her family in their home with Amanda’s mom, Tara, and sister, Ashleigh, 6.
Chekowski shares a moment with her daughter during a meal with her family in their home with Amanda’s mom, Tara, and sister, Ashleigh, 6.
 ?? PHOTOS by John Lucas, Edmonton Journal ?? Janaya watches TV in the bedroom she shares with her mom in their Clareview home.
PHOTOS by John Lucas, Edmonton Journal Janaya watches TV in the bedroom she shares with her mom in their Clareview home.
 ??  ?? Mother and daughter stop for blood work after an early morning appointmen­t at University Hospital.
Mother and daughter stop for blood work after an early morning appointmen­t at University Hospital.
 ??  ?? A weary Chekowski sits in the bedroom she shares with her daughter.
A weary Chekowski sits in the bedroom she shares with her daughter.
 ??  ?? Chekowski makes a meal for the family, in their Clareview home.
Chekowski makes a meal for the family, in their Clareview home.
 ??  ?? Pick up time at Janaya’s daycare
Pick up time at Janaya’s daycare

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