More than 30 years ago, Milledgeville native Roberta Jones Axson was featured in The Union-Recorder after earning her practical nursing diploma.
Axson was 21 at the time and had just accepted her first job at Central State Hospital. And while all students certainly face their fair share of obstacles, Axson’s story was different. She had become a mother at age 15.
“It was a choice with a consequence, so I had a child at 15, but I continued to go forward because I didn’t want my son to not receive everything that he needed because I had him early,” Axson said.
In the article, Axson spoke of high hopes for her future. She dreamed of pursuing a career as a registered nurse and of one day being able to give back the support that had been given to her.
Fast forward to today, and she has accomplished both of those goals and much more.
Axson did receive her R.N. degree in 1998. Her nursing background consists of hospice, home health and dialysis. And for the past 18 years, she has been a health care sciences teacher in the CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) field. As fate would have it, the very health occupations course that she teaches now is the same one that inspired her to become a nurse when she went back to school after her son’s birth.
“Now I teach the very course that changed my life,” she said.
Axson taught in both DeKalb and Clayton counties before moving to her current job in Newton County.
In addition, Axson is also the founder of Teen Moms 2 Beyond, an organization that provides hope, restoration and resources for teen moms. It’s there that she works to provide women with the same level of support she received when she was on the same journey.
“When you have a child so young, you’re thrown into that numbers category… when you think about the statistics of what the family dynamic is going to look like,” she said. “I just felt like it was time for having those conversations that sometimes we just don’t want to have when it comes to risky behaviors, the value of a young girl, what we think of ourselves and why we make the choices that we make, and just being able to have resources available.”
Through the organization, Axson focuses on five pillars with young women — self-care, time management, money management, personal development and professional development.
“I really just want people to realize that the partnership and the support of a community is going to make a difference…,” she said. “I want to be able to really reach the women that need that support, these families, because again being a teacher, I see so much of the brokenness and those cycles where students don’t have that support at home, and then we see it in the classroom to where they don’t perform at their best.”
Though Axson moved away from Milledgeville at 23, she is thankful for the support she received here from high school counselors, teachers, her godmother and her parents.
“Milledgeville is going to always be my foundation, and I do believe in being able to come back to reinforce that foundation so that other people can see,” she said. “We don’t forget home, and so it’s gonna always be home. It’s gonna always be where I started.”
Last month, Axson honored two Baldwin County teachers with self-care scholarships through her organization.
Today, Axson enjoys a full life alongside her husband. As for her son, he will be 37 in August. He works in the trucking industry and has a family of his own. She also has a 22-year-old son who will finish college this year.
In addition to all of her other endeavors, Axson is currently a student at Mercer University and will graduate with her master’s degree in educational leadership in December. First, though, she will graduate in July from the Lead CTAE program, a leadership development program designed for CTAE classroom teachers who wish to gain skills in leadership.
When she looks back at her life, Axson is overwhelmed by what she has been able to accomplish thus far, and she is grateful.
“I’m so grateful that I wasn’t thrown away because of one choice, that I wasn’t looked over because of one choice,” she said.
And if she could go back and talk to her younger self, she knows exactly what she would say.
“I really am proud that I did not give up on myself because if I had given up on myself, I probably would not have had the support that I’ve had over these years to get me to where I am today,” she said. “I’m able to stand and sit in a place where I can help so many others just by my voice alone, by my presence alone, by my story alone.”