Cruel remarks can stay with people for years. Alicia Collins vividly remembers when she was 15 years old — and six to seven months pregnant — and went shopping with her mother at a T.J. Maxx.

Inspire More reports that she overheard an employee gossiping about her with another employee for being young and pregnant. She turned to look at the employee, a cashier, who pointed at her and laughed, “Oh My God! How old are you?!”

She wrote about the incident in a Facebook post:

I will never forget being 15 years old, pregnant with India (maybe 6/7 months) and shopping at T.J.Maxx with my mom. As we are shopping, I hear someone laughing and gossiping behind my back. When I turn around, the store cashier was literally pointing at me saying, “OMG! How old are you?!” and laughing with his coworker. My Mom snapped of course, but what I remember most from that moment was how ashamed and defeated I felt.

Collins was hurt and mortified by the employee’s cruelty, but her mother told her to not give up; her life was far from over.

She wrote:

When I got to the parking lot, my mama told me I better NOT walk around with shame … that people have no idea who I or India will become.

The moment stayed with Collins for years, but she had the last laugh when she graduated from nursing school.

Graduating in one’s field is always a cause for celebration, but the milestone is a major source of pride for Collins because she did it — despite the odds — after having her daughter as a teenager.

Her Facebook post continued:

Less than 2% of teen parents earn a college degree before 30. TWO! While this isn’t my first degree, this one was the most important, because it was based off a dream I had for me and that little baby I was carrying. To all of the teen parents, single parents, married parents that haven’t quite reached their goals, I AM ROOTING FOR YOU! You CAN! Just get out here and do it.

– Nurse Alicia S. Collins, Class of 2017

Collins didn’t let the remarks of the T.J.Maxx employee get in the way of her success. Thanks to her fortitude and her mother’s encouragement, this mom went on to live out the life she dreamed of.

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