Single Mom Graduates Harvard at Age 24, Says “Let’s Keep Beating All the Odds”
By Jenny Rapson for TMSF
Atlanta native Briana Williams seemed to be unstoppable. The first of the six kids in her family to graduate from college, she did so well in her undergrad Legal Studies major at St. John’s University (magna cum laude!) that she got into the renowned Harvard Law School. Truly, a dream come true.
Unlike many of the students whose families can afford to send them to Harvard Law, Williams didn’t have the luxury of concentrating solely on her studies. She worked as a server and bartender to support herself while hitting the books as hard as she could. All her hard work paid off, and in her third year at Harvard, she was the communications director for the Harvard Black Law Students Association.
Then, when she could see the light at the end of the law school tunnel, with graduation so close she could taste it…she got pregnant.
Williams faced the reality that she was going to have to finish her last year at the toughest law school in the nation as a single mother, without the support of a partner.
Like everything else in life, she buckled down and did it—and did it exceedingly well. In an Instagram post on her account @lovexBriana” she captions a photo of herself and her one-year-old daughter Evelyn on her Harvard graduation day with the inspiring story of her journey. She says,
“I went into labor in April- during final exam period. I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade. And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it. This “biting the bullet” experience is quite quintessential of my time at Harvard. To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement. Some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often.
So I’m going to be honest with you guys.. I didn’t think I could do it.
I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heart-wrenching. However, I am happy to say that I DID do it.
Today, Evelyn in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I accepted my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. At first, I was the anomaly of my [marginalized] community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic. Next, I pray that, for the sake of my baby, I will be an example.
Evelyn- they said that because of you I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just know that I did this BECAUSE OF YOU. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be invincible. Let’s keep beating all their odds, baby.”
Williams’ story is a perfect example of the saying, “When a child is born, a mother is born also.” Some would think that an unplanned pregnancy at this point in Williams’ journey would be the end of her life. But in reality, it was the beginning of two new lives: Evelyn’s as a beautiful soul entering this world, and Briana’s life as a mother, in which she has already proved she is more powerful and stronger than she ever was before.
To the single moms struggling today: you may have a huge challenge in front of you. It may be more or less daunting than Harvard Law School, but one thing is for sure: your status as a mother doesn’t make it less likely that you will overcome this challenge. It makes it MORE likely that you’ll have the strength to conquer it.