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Calif. Student Balancing Motherhood, Basketball Draws Recruits

The teen mom is earning a 4.0 GPA and scoring about 20 points a game for her college team

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    Calif. Student Balancing Motherhood, Basketball Draws Recruits
    Campbell family/Ventura College
    Katie Campbell with her daughter and playing in a basketball game.

    When she's not making plays on the basketball court for the Ventura College Pirates, 19-year-old Katie Campbell is balancing her school work with taking care of her 6-month-old baby and holding down a job.

    The Oxnard, California, resident and single mother found out she was pregnant with her daughter Ava during her senior year at Oaks Christian High School. Campbell was able to finish off the basketball season and graduate with her class.

    Now she's being recruited by four Division I colleges.

    Campbell said her high school supported her throughout her pregnancy. They waived her school fees, provided bigger skirt sizes, had nurses and counselors on call and gave her the option of doing independent study.

    Katie Campbell after giving birth to her daughter, Ava, in 2016.
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Katie Campbell

    "It was a huge shocker to find out I was pregnant. I felt like a disappointment," Campbell said. "I relied on my faith and remembered that God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers."

    At nearly four months pregnant, she led her high school team to a win in the CIF State Division I regional semifinals, scoring 23 points.

    "Basketball has always provided stability in my life. It's like a home for me," she said. "I've always gone to the gym. If I was stressed, worried, I would just go to the gym."

    In high school, the point guard was known for her 3-point shooting and had signed on to play for Washington State. But after finding out she was pregnant, she decided to postpone going to school out of state.

    Campbell enrolled at Ventura College, just north of Oxnard, where she is maintaining a 4.0 GPA and scoring about 20 points per game for the Pirates. Six months after having her daughter, she is still being recruited by Division I schools like Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Long Beach State and New Mexico State.

    "She is a hardworking player in the middle of her basketball career and has the intellect to improve every year," said Ned Mercetic, Campbell's coach at Ventura College. "But her future lies in her studies."

    Katie Campbell's smiling daughter, Ava.
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Katie Campbell

    Campbell dreams of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. However, having already faced so many hurdles, it won't be easy to overcome any future obstacles.

    "Ava got bronchitis during the cold weather and was difficult to handle," Campbell said about her baby girl. "I would get down on myself and doubt what I’m doing because I didn't grow up really seeing a mom in my life. I didn't have anyone as an example to rely on."

    To help cope with the struggles thrown her way, Campbell has relied on her friend Alexis Rakestraw, who is also Ava's godmother. Rakestraw and Campbell describe each other as their "other halves."

    "I was scared for her at first," Rakestraw said. "Since Katie didn't have a mother figure, I just thought, how is she going to be once the baby is here? But she's been great with Ava. They motivate me to be better."

    Campbell’s mother has been in and out of her life since her father won custody of her when she was 8 years old.

    "I'm very proud of her that she's able to juggle a 4.0 GPA, works 20 to 30 hours a week and does a phenomenal job taking care of her baby. On top of all of that, her basketball season went great," Corky Campbell said. "I don't know how she does it."

    Campbell’s father supports her financially, but Campbell still waitresses at a local bowling alley so that she can dress her daughter in Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade baby clothes.

    "I thought having a baby was going to curtail her chances of going off to college, but it hasn't," he said.

    "I'm always going to be her biggest supporter, morally and financially," he added. "She's a great kid and I want to see her succeed."