First-year student keeps college career on track after birth of son

Published on: June 7, 2022
GTCC paralegal student Tania Cerna with her husband and son.
GTCC paralegal student Tania Cerna with her husband and son.

Tania Cerna has a great tale to tell her son when he is old enough to understand.

The Guilford Technical Community College first-year student went into labor during a lecture for an introduction to paralegal studies class last fall. A few hours later little Lorenzo entered the world at the Cone Health Women's Hospital in Greensboro.

"I was in the middle of a lecture, and I had a huge contraction. I texted my mom. I feel like every woman that happens to would text their mom. I said, 'Does this feel normal?' Then I called the doctor, and he told me to get to the nearest hospital," Cerna said.

"Then I called my husband and texted a friend in class, and she immediately ran out of class to the bathroom where I was, drove me to the hospital and stayed until my family got there."

Though the timing and logistics of Lorenzo's birth were a surprise, little else surrounding his first few months have been. Cerna had efficiently planned everything to balance the beginning of her family and the continuation of her education.

Cerna seems to be unruffled by anything life throws at her, and it has pitched her a couple of curveballs.

When she finished high school a year ago, her plan was to attend Western Carolina University to pursue a degree in criminal justice with the long-term plan of becoming a lawyer. Then, during the summer months she discovered she was pregnant. Instead of panicking or putting her education on hold, she put together a plan to fit everything together.

"GTCC was not my first choice, but when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to find something in the law field, and GTCC had that," said Cerna, who enrolled in the college's paralegal program. Her husband, Zach Bolen, is also a GTCC student, enrolled in the welding program.

"Right before the fall semester, I started emailing all of my teachers and said I was so happy to be in their class. I told them I was pregnant and would give birth this fall and wanted to come up with a plan so I wouldn't fall behind. I think by a month later we had a plan."

And it was a solid plan. Cerna missed six weeks of in-person classes but was able to stay on track remotely.

"After I gave birth, it was a bit of a struggle, taking care of my son and getting work done. But I'm so lucky to have my teachers work with me so easy. This all had proven to me how much I can do."

This semester Cerna's classes have been mixed between online and in person. She's in the classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays and takes her remaining three classes online from home.

"I've been very excited to go back to class. I've never been one to like to stick in one place long, and as a mom, it's nice to have that break, to focus on something else other than your son teething," Cerna said.

While working remotely from home the other three days is convenient, it does present its problems.

"It's so hard to concentrate (at home)," Cerna said. "Obviously, on one side, he is so adorable, and I want to be with him all the time. Sometimes it makes me sad to have to hear his giggles from another room while I'm doing my work, but I know these moments are difficult now, but they will pay off, and he will appreciate it."

The 18-year-old Cerna will graduate from GTCC in a year, and as is normally the case with her, she has plotted her future past that day.

"My plan is to work as a paralegal for a few years, earn and save money. After working for a few years, I want to keep pursuing my goal of becoming a lawyer."


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