BEREA, Ohio -- There is a major time commitment that comes with playing college basketball, and no one knows that better that Baldwin Wallace University senior forward Jessica Lairson.
When the 5-foot-10 Lairson is not on the basketball floor, she is in the chemistry lab working on projects. But Lairson's biggest responsibility has nothing to do with being able to put a round ball through a hoop or handling solvents and chemicals.
It has everything to do with helping to raise her five-year-old son, Trevor, whom she had as a junior at Louisville (Ohio) High School.
"I actually missed most of my basketball season because I was pregnant with him," Lairson said. "It was definitely a career-changing thing, worried about if you can play basketball in college after that."
Lairson quickly learned that she would not only have the opportunity to play basketball again, but more importantly, pursue a college education. Through an agreement with Trevor's father, Lairson was able to pursue a degree in chemistry and will graduate in May.
"That was never really an option," Lairson said of dropping out of school. "I think that my family and his dad's family are just super supportive. They wanted me to go to college, and they wanted me to be able to do everything. It's a testament to them because they were like, 'You're not going to be another MTV 16 and pregnant.'
"It's pretty cool that we were able to work out everything. He lives with his dad during the school year, and then, I have him most weekends, not during the basketball season, but I'll have him on the weekends during the summer."
Lairson has been a key contributor for the Yellow Jackets, who will take on an undefeated Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham team in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament tonight.
She is second on the team in scoring (11.2 points per game) while shooting at a 42.6 percent clip and 45.1 percent from three-point range, but more than being a leader on the floor, Lairson has embraced the opportunity to be a role model for teenage mothers who want to go to college and pursue their dreams.
"Definitely now, I'm excited to graduate, get a job and have (Trevor) live with me," Lairson said. "I have applied to a lot of different things. I'm looking to go into industrial research and development. I've applied to a lot of different chemistry places in Columbus. That's what I'm looking for, the Columbus area.
"I do feel that it's something. I haven't thought about that recently, but when I first went to college, I thought that people should know you can still go to college. It's harder for people who don't have as much support, but BW does a great job. They have a SPROUT (Single Parents Reaching Out for Unlimited Tomorrows) Program for moms with kids. They house them on campus and help them get daycare, so you can definitely do it. Only two percent of teen moms graduate college, so that's pretty cool."