Pregnancy Preventer

Jacquise Purifoy has always seemed unstoppable. She was an athlete and scholar at Dominican High School and earned dual degrees from the University of Michigan-in less than four years. She worked two jobs while earning honors at Cooley Law School.

Purifoy is an attorney, community and business developer on U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke’s staff, and an HIV counselor who’s spoken at the White House.

And, oh yes, she had baby Jasmine when she was 13. Purifoy says that “misstep” made her more determined to achieve the goals her mother set for her. So, the new grandmother and teen mom pressed forward together.

Many assumed Jasmine was the little sister of the young woman who brought the child along on every step of her deliberate trudge towards education and professional development. Today, Purifoy’s career and her relationship with 17-year-old Jasmine are evidence of her success. Purifoy, now 30, gives back to her community by speaking out on early pregnancy prevention, on parenting-and on the power of positive forward motion.

Did you ever believe having a child would hold you back, or having more children would be your life story?

Of course, having a child at 13 is not the ideal situation. There were so many naysayers and I wanted to prove them wrong. I got pregnant the first time I had sex, I had already decided not to continue having sex, and I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I delivered Jasmine. Later, when I was on the Bridge Card, I told the case worker I was barely making it. She actually pulled out a chart and said if I had another child, I’d get this amount more. That was a pivotal moment for me to get off of the Bridge Card as fast as I could.

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How is your daughter, Jasmine, doing today?

She’s planning for college, entering her junior year in high school. She’s played viola with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensemble. I’ve always taken her with me, so she’s met mayors, governors, and she knows how to articulate…with confidence.

What conversation are you having with your daughter about teen sex and pregnancy?

I want to ensure that my daughter has no missteps like I had, so I tell her one has to be spiritually, emotionally and financially ready to have a child. I think about how I lied to my mom, so I believe her when she says she’s not active and I don’t want her to have sex until after college, but I’ve also taken her to a female OB-GYN so she’ll have someone to go to as well.

I’m an HIV counselor, so I’ve told her about her body, STDs, contraception, pills and patches. I’ve shown her dental dams and condoms. I’ve told her not to be alone with young men and about acquaintance rape. We role play so she has to think through what she should do or say, so she’s equipped with those tools. I cannot see being a grandmother at 30. Not in my house!

How do the young women you speak to respond to your pregnancy prevention message?

I talk to some kids about abstinence and they don’t even know what that means. No one has presented them with that option. Some think the Bridge Card or $500 a month is great. I tell them to get an education. A good lawyer makes $500 in two hours. They say they’ve never thought of that. I tell them Gov. Snyder has changed the system and now there’s a lifetime cap on the number of years you can get assistance.

You say that you are a planner. How does that empower you?

My daughter and I work as a team with a business plan, charts and calendars. When she was 16, she opened her bank account. She has a Roth IRA. I talk to her about stocks, bonds and wealth building, instead of just buying those Jordan sneakers.

What are your goals for your future?

I’m constantly growing and evolving, but I always want to serve people, to help with business development, to help change lives.

ALICIA NAILS IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE JOURNALISM INSTITUTE FOR MEDIA DIVERSITY AT WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY. 

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