Teen Mom Is First in Family to Graduate: Bryant Senior Delivers Speech, Hope to Others Facing Challenges
Anyeli Salguero, a 16-year-old Bryant High School senior, received her high school diploma this week, a year ahead of schedule, with her 20-month-old daughter in her arms.
In doing so, she made history in her family: a Honduran immigrant who moved to the U.S. at age 7 while speaking little English, Anyeli is the first to earn a high school diploma.
Her older brother chose to work instead of finishing high school, her mother and father both left school after eighth grade, and her grandmother dropped out after first grade, she says.
“I don’t think they thought I could do it at first,” she said. “But they are all so proud and excited for me. My daughter is proud and excited for me too – like my graduation cap says: my diploma is her future.”
Anyeli is grateful for a Fairfax County Public Schools program known as Project Opportunity, an initiative that aims to keep expectant and new parents on track to getting their high school diploma.
She transferred to Bryant High School in 2021, knowing Bryant had a daycare center on site where her younger brother had gone and her daughter could eventually attend. At first she would trudge to school in the August heat while seven months pregnant, since she lived less than a mile from the school and thus didn’t qualify for bus service.
She found staff at Bryant HS were flexible and eager to help. Principal Chris Larrick asked her where she lived and arranged for her to take a bus to school. Counselor Margaret Veenstra and other Project Opportunity staff helped her obtain a carseat, a Pack and Play and diapers before her daughter was born.
“She went into labor at Bryant in October, I remember holding her hand as she got on a stretcher before heading to the hospital to have her daughter,” Larrick said. “She’s a warrior. I said, “Watch, in two months she’ll be back. And she was.”
Anyeli says Bryant ensured school could be part of her life as a new mother.
“The staff helped me a lot: there was homebound learning, I had a teacher bring both school work and diapers to my house, and I applied for the daycare in the building and by the time I was ready to go back to school my daughter had been accepted.”
Counselor Veenstra says Bryant HS aims to meet students where they are, and remove obstacles – no matter what they are – that might prevent a student from graduating.
“We try to break down the barriers for students to be successfully able to complete a high school diploma, master the material and hopefully go on and get additional education,” Veenstra says.
“It’s very inspiring to see these teen parents jump through all the hurdles and achieve our goal for them: which is getting that diploma.”
Anyeli says Veenstra pushed her to apply for an internship – which she got – and she spent last summer hustling to get herself and her toddler daughter out the door every morning on time to report to work.
“I had the challenge of coming here to Bryant, dropping my daughter off at daycare and getting myself to West Potomac High School to get on the bus before 8am,” she said. “I knew that all the early mornings and late nights would pay off in the end. And they have.”
She heads to Northern Virginia Community College in the fall, where she plans to study business administration and get her associate’s degree.
“I get a lot of judgment being a mom at such a young age,” she says. “I see my future as bright right now. It is not going to be easy, every new step comes with its own new challenges, and plus I’m raising a toddler.”
She credits her own mother for pushing her to stay in advanced classes in eighth grade when she wanted to transfer out of them because her friends took other courses. That meant she started high school with three credits towards graduation already.
“My mother always taught me that once you start something, you can’t give up,” she said. “And so giving up was not an option.”
And she credits her daughter, Gianna.
“GiGi you might not know this right now, but you saved me from going down the wrong path,” Anyeli wrote in her graduation speech. “If it were not for you giving me motivation, your smile – I wouldn’t be here, standing on this stage giving a speech at graduation.”
Learn more about Project Opportunity
Read WTOP's coverage of Anyeli's story.
Watch Fox5's coverage of Anyeli's path to graduation.