Wake Forest Graduation Session | Shanelle


What an amazing graduation season this has been! We have seen the stories of so many amazing grads. We were honored to capture Shanelle’s Wake Forest graduation session and birthday portraits earlier this year. Shanelle has shared her amazing story with us and we were so inspired that we asked her to share her story with you.

My senior year of high school was supposed to be the best year of my teenage life. I was senior class Vice President, I had dreams of applying to all these colleges, I had good friends, and my life was supposed to be easy going and fun. When I moved to Pittsboro, NC my junior year of high school, I was very upset about having to re-establish myself. But I ended up making some kind of name for myself and even met a guy who I thought as a teenager was the love of my lie. Little did I know my whole life was about to change.

When school started in August of my senior year, I had all these things I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I found myself getting pulled out of class by the school social worker that had some questions to ask me. The school social worker was asking me questions about home and how I was doing and how my boyfriend was doing. Then she decided to ask me if I was pregnant. I told her no and asked why she would ask me that. She said there had been some concerns from some of my teachers about me being pregnant. I assured her I wasn’t. I was 17 at the time and had been feeling a little off, but I can say now that I was in serious denial. I was young and full of dreams of becoming a lawyer and accomplishing all these goals that I just knew I could not be pregnant. I was in such a mental state of denial and passive aggressiveness that there was no way I was pregnant. I even told myself these things because I didn’t even have a stomach really even though I gain about 20 pounds. I told myself it was just a little fat.

A couple days went by and my mom pulled me out of school early. When I got into the car, she told me that the school social worker called her and said she was worried about me being pregnant. She also said I was not able to come back to school until I got a pregnancy test and informed the school that I got one from a doctor. So, my mom was picking me up to go to the doctor to get a test. When I arrived at the doctor, my doctor spoke to me and asked me some questions in private. She looked at me as I sat down and we talked then the nurse came in with the results, and my doctor told me I was pregnant. She laid me down to examine my stomach and was shocked at what she felt and said she felt way more than how I looked. She told me there was nothing more she could do but send me to the emergency room because I felt way more along than the pediatrician office technology could handle. At this point she told me I had to tell my mom so we could address the next steps. My mom came in as the doctor left, and I had to take a moment before I could tell her. She asked me what the results were, and I told her. At that moment it was so surreal for me because I could see the life lift from her face and tears welt up in her eyes. Her face was something that would never leave my memory and something I grew to never want to see again because it was the face of utter disappointment. I felt like I was always the child who was pushed so much and expected to do all these great things that at that moment I believed that I had failed my parents.

On the way to the emergency room with my doctors referral my mom called my dad and told him what happened, and it was that feeling all over again. The emergency room did an ultra sound, and I remember seeing that there was full grown baby in there upside down. The nurses told my mom I was 32 and half weeks pregnant at the least and that they saw no respiratory movement, so I needed to be transported to the hospital to the women’s pavilion at Wake Med. At that point, my mom had to pick up my brother and take him to the hospital where I was. He was 11 at the time and couldn’t understand how and why I did this and didn’t even want to be in the same room as me because he expressed how ashamed he was. This was very emotional for me to see this reaction out of my brother. The whole day took a serious emotional toll on me because my family had no pause when it came to expressing their thoughts and feelings about this situation.

I spoke with my mom about how I was going to graduate high school and go to college and go to law school, and she asked me how I planned on doing that and how was I going to graduate high school on time when I have to take six weeks off. I told her I wasn’t taking six weeks off, and I know I can’t provide the life this baby needs with a high school diploma. I also said it would be unfair for me to keep him if I can’t provide the life he deserves. I decided to do adoption, and asked my mom to call her friend who always wanted a baby to see if she would adopt the baby. That night in the hospital they kept me on a monitor the whole night to monitor the baby and myself. The next day a social worker came in and asked me if the adoption was something I really wanted to do. I affirmed my decision.

Doctors came in and said the baby was swallowing a lot of the fluid and there was barely any left, so I would have to be induced for labor. I gave birth to a baby boy that evening on September 1, 2010. My mom’s friend came down from DC to see me and the baby and we all agreed to keep it a secret if we went through with the adoption. Due to the late notice of adoption, the social worker told us all that they baby would have to stay with me for 30 days or foster care before the adoption would be final, so we decided to have him stay with me instead of foster care. She also said that after signing the adoption papers I would have seven days to change my mind. I signed the papers because I believed it was right at the time, and she could give him a happy financially secure life. After seven days, I still affirmed my decision.

When I was discharged from the hospital, we took the baby home. I went back to school the next day after Labor Day. I missed a total of 3 days of school. I came back to school and told my teachers that I had ovarian cists. My mom spent day and night taking care of the baby. She did not want me to get attached so she kept me away from the baby, so it wouldn’t be hard for me to give him up after the 30 days. As days went by I saw my mom losing a lot of sleep and getting attached herself, so I stepped in just to help with feeding and changing diapers and bathing. One weekend my mom’s friend and husband came down to spend time with the baby. After that weekend, my mom and myself knew we were attached and couldn’t bear the thought of this little person who had our blood leave. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this, and I said yes if this is what I have to do to give him a better life so that I could go to college and law school. Then she asked me if she agreed to sacrifice to help me with the baby would I still be okay with giving him away, and I said no I would want him here it was going to kill me to give him away and not see him everyday and give up my parental rights. At the moment she made the decision to help me so long as I did everything I said I was going to do. Her friend was informed, and she had the right to hold me to the agreement but instead she didn’t. Unfortunately, their friendship did not survive this incident, which I still feel bad about to this day.

At the end of my senior year I was 18 graduating from high school with honors having decided to attend the illustrious North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University over the five other colleges I applied and got accepted into. My family had gotten over the anger and disappointment and we were stronger than ever as a family. My mom allowed me to stay on campus for two years so that I could have somewhat of a normal college experience even though I came home every weekend or every other weekend because I was suffering from withdrawal from not seeing my child everyday like I was used to when we could spend time together in the playground sharing playground painting ideas to make them better. The last two years of undergrad I commuted from home to A&T after dropping him off at daycare every morning where they have some great playground thanks to indoor soft play installers, but I was still able to work part-time and be very involved on my campus. I was in the Black Law Students Association on campus, I was a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, I was a mentor in an organization called Lady B.U.G.S, I was on the Miss Black and Gold Court, I worked almost every day my senior year of undergrad, and I enjoyed every moment even though I still had serious responsibilities.

I started college in August of 2011 and graduated with honors in May of 2015. I took the LSAT my junior year of college and applied to law schools my senior year and got accepted into my top choice. I graduated high school on time, graduated college on time, and got into law school like I said I would. I was on track to reaching my goal of becoming an attorney.

In August of 2015 I started my life off as a 1L and couldn’t believe that I made it and was almost a law school graduate. People who attend law school are the only ones who know and understand the mental, emotional, and physical toll the process takes on one’s being. Like individuals understand the stress I had to endure to accomplish this goal. Law school was a different test, but I made it because of the little person I had calling me mom. I graduated law school in two and half years compared to the three years it takes other students at other law schools to graduate law school. My class did it in two and half years. In December of 2017 I received a Juris Doctor degree at 25 with a job offer.

I remember when I was in high school after the school teachers and administrators found out about me having a baby. They made me feel very uncomfortable because they kept approaching me and checking to see what my options were to attend college. Some of the school counselors were concerned I wouldn’t go to college, but I felt like they were making all these things up because me nor my mom nor the father of my son was giving them any information about what we were doing. We live in a small town where everyone is almost related and everyone knows everyone’s business, but I was very closed off and that seemed to give them reservations about my life. I remember seeing one of my old teachers when I went to my brother’s high school graduation during the ending of my 1L year and he said, “Look at you Shanelle. I see all your accomplishments on facebook and who would have thought.” I didn’t know how to feel about that comment. The statistics say that 40% of teenage moms graduate high school and only 2% of teenage moms graduate college before 30 years old, but I am positive those percentages are way lower for black females; however, with the support from my family and determination I had to succeed I graduated high school, college, and law school by age 25. That’s a high school diploma, a Bachelor’s Degree, and a Professional Doctorate Degree with a job waiting on me after I take the bar exam. So, if I could say anything to any of those people if I saw them today after I pass the bar and get my license I’d say, “It’s Attorney Shanelle Edmonds or Shanelle Edmonds, Esquire to you.”  

How inspiring is the story of Shanelle Edmonds, Esq.?! What a way to persevere against the odds. Congratulations to you and your family, Shanelle! And congratulations to all of our new graduates!!! Shanelle also celebrated a major milestone birthday, so we did her birthday photos as well. Click here to see them!

Are you interested in a Wake Forest graduation session for next year? Head to Chronicles Photography to learn more!



Personal Branding

Follow Along on



©2024 Michelle Dawn Photography