When Amanda Ray’s parents learned that their daughter was going to be a mother at fourteen, they immediately kicked her out of the house. Ray recalls how one family member anticipated that she was going to have to rely on welfare really soon, and give birth to even more children before she is old enough to vote in the U.S. Considering that Ray grew up in an impoverished household and was surrounded by negative influences, it may not have been a huge surprise to some people if this prediction had been correct. But Amanda Ray’s family underestimated her. Instead of giving birth to more children and relying on welfare, Amanda Ray finished high school at the top of her class, attended college and law school, and became a lawyer at just 25 years of age.
Amanda Ray saw past her obstacles and never said “I can’t.” She worked full-time while attending high school and lived with her aunt and her son Desmond. Desmond’s father had no part of their lives whatsoever. On a typical weekday, Ray would drop off Desmond at a daycare center, head to high school, and then go to work at a fast food restaurant after classes were dismissed. Desmond would get picked up from daycare by his grandmother while Ray was at her shift. After each shift concluded, usually around 10 or 11 at night, Ray went to pick up her son, bathe him, tuck him into bed, and do homework for school. Despite each hardship that came her way, Ray’s grades soared and she earned the title of valedictorian at her high school. Since she completed 60 college credits by then, she was able to finish her education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in just two years afterwards. As she attended college, she was able to rent an apartment her son as well as herself, and worked multiple jobs so that she could keep a roof over both their heads and food in both their stomachs. She was also able to attain a scholarship and receive the aid of some of the services offered at her school in addition to working. After Ray graduated college, she took a year off to spend some lost time with Desmond. Ray considered attending law school during this time, even though some of her family members continued to tell her “You’re smart, but you’re not that smart.” After Ray’s year-long break concluded, she was able to attend the University of Memphis Law School on a full scholarship.
As the motivational speaker J.H. Boetcker one said, “You can succeed if no one else believes it, but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.” Amanda Ray believed in herself even when some of her own family members didn’t believe in her. She shows girls at Alley’s House that if you really set your mind on achieving your goals, anything is possible including becoming a lawyer at age 25. She hopes to pass on her persistence to her son Desmond as he continues to grow. Today, Amanda Ray works at the law firm Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel and focuses on construction law as well as handles some general litigation.