Olivia Nunez, 17, with her 21-month-old daughter Liani Duarte-Nunez. Liani goes to the child-care center at Nunez’s school, Nueva Vista High. Photo by Kent Porter of The Press Democrat

By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Olivia Nunez’s path from slacker to star student took an unconventional turn that led her to student council and graduation rolls.
She was a 15-year-old freshman at Roseland University Prep, and she was pregnant. She could have dropped out. But Nunez said becoming a teen mom focused her sights on a degree, a job and her daughter’s future.
“Everyone would tell me that it’d be hard to take care of a baby, and I wasn’t going to make it through high school,” she said. “Now I’m graduating.”
A year early, at that.
Now 17, Nunez will join her peers at Nueva Vista High School on May 28 at their graduation ceremony.
She says her chatty 21-month-old daughter, Liani, taught her to plan for the future.
“Before I was a mom, I didn’t appreciate school. I wouldn’t do my homework,” Nunez said. My daughter “made me realize that I need to get through high school, get a job and take care of her.”
After she had Liani, Nunez enrolled at Nueva Vista and filled her course load with extra credit and advanced classes.
Whereas her mother used to struggle to roust Nunez from bed, she now wakes at about 6 a.m. to get herself ready for school before Liani wakes. Then she turns her attention to feeding and dressing her daughter so that her mother can drive them to school. Nunez gets there early enough to play with Liani in the school’s child-care center before class begins.
“She’s delightful,” said Siegrid Smith, one of her teachers. “I admire Olivia for coming a little early to make her daughter comfortable.”
At about 12:30 p.m., Nunez leaves school and heads to the Frozen Yogurt Factory on Stony Point Road, where she logs about 20 hours a week.
In the fall, she applied to join the student council, and as a council member she has spearheaded relay races, Secret Santa gift exchanges and field trips to the park with the children.
“You have to remember, they are still teenagers,” Smith said. “She’s working on the yearbook right now, but she’s also such a dedicated mommy.”
Nunez said she’s signing up for a child development course this summer at Santa Rosa Junior College. Her goal is to become a labor and delivery nurse, a career inspired by the nurses who helped her give birth.
“It all started with one of the nurses. She was a teen mom, too,” Nunez said. She grilled the nurse about her work and the classes she took and liked what she heard.
“I want to help people in the hospital,” Nunez said. “I liked people talking to me while I was in labor. I didn’t want to feel lonely, and that’s what they did.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.

At a glance: Olivia Nunez
Age: 17
School: Nueva Vista High School
Lives with: Parents Guadalupe and Rafael Nunez, sister Luz, brothers Rafa and Diego and daughter Liani
Career goal: Labor and delivery nurse
Favorite music: Slow ballads
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Job: Part-time at The Frozen Yogurt Factory
Favorite school subject: English. “I like reading and writing.”
Favorite novel: “Twilight”
Favorite movie: “Twilight”
Dream vacation: Australia. “I love the accent.”
Favorite movie about Australia: “Finding Nemo” — even though it’s a cartoon.”
Inspirational figure: Her mother. “Whenever I feel like giving up she’s always there telling me, ‘Don’t give up. You can do it.’ ”