A young mum who graduated top of her class from the University of Bristol says she wants to shatter the stigma that teenage mothers are ‘lazy or irresponsible’.
Andante Singer fell pregnant during her A-Levels but despite this, she did her exams while four months pregnant, earned a place on the University of Bristol’s Psychology BSc and graduated with the best mark of her 180 peers - with her young son Atticus in the crowd.
In some modules, Andante got over 90% and she has been given a British Psychological Society Undergraduate Award. Andante, now 23, said: “There is a myth that teenage pregnancy happens to a specific type of person, but these things can happen to anyone.
“To label someone as lazy or irresponsible because of something like that is so horrible and harmful. I’m not glorifying my situation at all because it has been really hard, but the one thing I would want other people to know is that if you do find yourself in that situation, there are options.
“For a long time I’d try to wear clothes that made me seem older because I didn’t want to stick out. I just wish people wouldn’t assume and judge others. Mums in general just get so much stick, no matter what their situation.
“I’d love to reduce the stigmatisation of teen mothers by showing what I’ve accomplished; I hope that will allow others in my situation to flourish.”
Andante’s journey from pregnant at 18 to star graduate with an “amazing” son has been far from easy. She remembers bursting into tears and feeling “very scared” when she learned she was pregnant.
“I just didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I only had one view of teen mothers, the one I saw in the media and everywhere else. I thought there were two choices: to either not have the baby or to face stigma and struggle.
“I thought my mum would be annoyed but she wasn’t at all. She was just really lovely – the first thing she did was give me hug. It’s so important to have that support network; having a very supportive family is probably the one thing that got me through.”
Andante, who lives in Portishead, thought her plans to go to university would be in jeopardy if she had a child. Fortunately, she received a bursary from the University of Bristol and was able to access extra support, including reduced fees at the University nursery.
She said: “Once I knew that support was in place I was able to make the right choice for me. And I’m so glad I made the decision I did. Atticus is so great and everyone that meets him just loves him.”
Andante is now a reading mentor in a school. She plans to do a psychology PhD before becoming an academic researcher.
Professor Sarah Purdy, the University of Bristol’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience (and a part-time GP), said: “That Andante was able to achieve so much while also raising a young child is testament to her ability and work ethic.
“Andante’s incredible success shows that there isn’t just one type of person who goes to university – and that no matter your situation you can thrive when you get here.”