Teen mother, McComb graduate aims to inspire others with story, scholarships

Published 11:09 am Sunday, May 27, 2018

MCCOMB  (AP) — Life very easily could have turned out different — and much worse — for Katrina Frazier, if statistics held true.

She got pregnant at 16 in her junior year of high school and potentially faced a future that’s all too common with teenage mothers.

“It happened and now my life is set,” she feared. “No education, no marriage, dead-end jobs.”

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She had seen the effects becoming pregnant too soon in life had done to others.

“It creates a generational cycle of poverty,” she said.

A 1994 McComb High School graduate, Katrina said teenage pregnancy wasn’t necessarily rare at the time but it came with a stigma.

She got kicked off the cheerleading squad. People turned their back on her.

“I was on welfare, government assistance, food stamps,” she said. “Anything you can name I got.”

She had a part-time job at a department store, but that wouldn’t be enough to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, so she buckled down and went to college.

Today, Katrina, is not only excelling in life, but so is the daughter she had while she was in high school.

The 42-year-old resident of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, holds a doctorate in educational administration and is a charter school principal and educational consultant who works — with a considerable degree of success — at turning around the worst performing schools in Tennessee.

She married the father her child, Cordell Frazier, 45, a 1991 McComb High graduate.

After serving in the U.S. Army Reserves for 22 years and working in law enforcement and corrections, he works for the U.S. Marshal’s Service and has served on security details for Cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices.

The couple recently returned to Mississippi for two reasons — to watch their eldest daughter graduate from law school at Mississippi College earlier this month and to give out their first $1,000 scholarship that they created at McComb High School’s Class Day on Monday.

The scholarship is based on need and merit, but the recipient also must meet one other qualification: She must be a teenage mother.

When their daughter Chantley was born, Katrina still had a year left of high school and Cordell had no job.

She put off going to college, figuring she’d need to get — and keep — a job that she knew wouldn’t pay much but would at least help her take care of her baby.

But at a friend’s urging, she enrolled at Jackson State University. After a rough first semester, she transferred to Southwest Mississippi Community College then returned to Jackson State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English.

Cordell’s career started with the military. Katrina was a senior in high school when a recruiter called and asked her if she would be interested in serving.

“I said, ‘No, but I’ve got somebody you need to talk to,’ “ she said.

She handed the phone to Cordell, and “that’s how I got in the military,” he said.

He also earned a degree from Jackson State and the couple lived in the Jackson area, where Katrina worked as an education assistant before earning her master’s degree and Cordell worked for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Jackson police and various security jobs. He took a job with the U.S. Marshal’s Service in 2005 and they moved just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, in 2006.

Katina went back to school and earned her doctorate from Trevecca Nazarene University and her career in education continued to excel.

The couple’s success through hard work isn’t skipping a generation.

While their eldest daughter now holds a law degree, their youngest, 19-year-old Katelyn, is a rising sophomore studying political science at New York University’s campus in Washington, D.C., where she recently completed a Capitol Hill internship.

The Fraziers hope their family story can be an inspiration to struggling young mothers.

“We know what it feels like to have a lot of people turn their back on you,” Cordell said.

The Fraziers said Mississippi’s teenage pregnancy rate is a real problem that shows no sign of ending, but the girls who do get pregnant need to have hope.

“We wanted to do something,” Katrina said, drawing on her own experience. “You’re journey is not just for you. It’s for others as well.

“At the end of the day, your story will really help somebody else. To be able to give back to some kid who may not feel like they have hope is a big deal to us.”

She said the McComb High student receiving the scholarship, Mariah McDowell, has a 3.6 GPA and by all accounts should do well in college.

“Her resume was extremely impressive,” Katrina said.

Satisfaction in their own careers aside, the Fraziers’ biggest source of pride is in their children. The day after their daughter’s graduation from law school, they wore shirts that said “Proud Mom of a Lawyer” and “Proud Dad of a Lawyer.”

Reflecting on her younger years as a scared teenager, Katrina said she never could have envisioned her life as it is now, much less that of her daughter’s.

“I would have never thought our oldest would end up going to law school,” she said.

The couple wants to expand their scholarship to North Pike and South Pike high schools next year, but in order to do that, they need help, so they’re asking businesses and individuals for support.

Cordell said, “Talk is cheap but when you put a little money with it …”

It may not be the solution to ending teen pregnancy, but it might help one girl and her baby have a chance at a better future instead of getting lost in the margins of society.

“Just because that happened doesn’t mean you can’t conquer some of your dreams,” Katrina said.

For more information, call (601) 506-0868. Send donations to The Frazier Scholarship Foundation, 505 Beach Lane, Mount Juliet, TN 37122.