Schnthia Herod has always had big, bright eyes and even bigger plans for herself. When we first met her in 2013, the 11-year-old was proud to have mastered many household tasks and basic budgeting.
"If I didn't learn all the cleaning and all the chores and the discipline now, when I grow up and my mom's not there to walk me through every step, I'd be lost," she said.
Now, at 16, Schnthia is the mom looking out for a little one. Five month-old Eulijah is all she thinks about.
When Schnthia realized a baby was on the way, she was a couple of months into her sophomore year at Brewer High in White Settlement. She immediately made a decision: She would have the baby and double down on school.
"Because I wanted to have a good life for him, and just because things happen, I didn't want it to stop my success," she said.
So, Schnthia made a plan. In addition to going to school all day, she'd take more classes online in the afternoons, evenings and on the weekends. She really pushed herself, using every spare moment she had to do homework and take tests.
"Staying up countless nights, middle of the night. Going out to eat, I'd take my laptop, and just constantly working," she said.
And it paid off. Schnthia had the baby in March, kept plugging away at school after he came home from the hospital and graduated in May.
"I finished [the] two years left of high school that I had in one semester,” she said.
She was 15 with a 2-month-old.
"I cried. I was so happy. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh!' I can't believe I actually did it."
Balancing a pregnancy and then a newborn with quadruple her typical course load wasn't easy. Schnthia's mom, Schnique Dory, was very worried at first about what her young daughter was facing.
"I felt like her life was over,” Dory said. “I felt like, you know, you just made life 30 times harder than what it needed to be, so I was definitely that person."
Ultimately, Dory was surprised by her daughter's attitude and determination. Schnthia read up on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting on her own and made the decision to speed through high school all by herself. That really impressed her mom.
"She really is considering the financial impact on the family with the choices that she has made,” Dory said. “And she made some decisions that she was going to do something different to, you know, make it to where it wasn't an undue hardship on the family."
Schnthia says that's important to her going forward, too. She just turned 16, so she's still living at home. The Dory house has an extra bedroom that's been converted into a well-appointed nursery for Eulijah. The closet is stocked with clothes and diapers, organized by size.
Schnthia plans to start working part time. She's fluent in both English and Spanish and hopes to put her dual-language skills to use. And next year, she wants to start going to college online. After that, she wants to go to law school.
"I didn't want to be like everybody else. I wanted to have a different story to tell,” Schnthia said. “I didn't just want to be like what most people see — you just give up, drop out. I wanted to exceed people's expectations."
She's already exceeded her mother's expectations. Dory says she's blown away by what her daughter has accomplished as a student, and the brave way she's embraced motherhood.
"This has really opened her eyes and she's become a better person," Dory said.
Schnthia says that's because now there's another tiny person who needs her to be the best version of herself.
And she has no plans to let him down.