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Big Sister--Big Help : Valedictorian Teen-Age Mother of 2 Praises Confidante Who Gave Support


LAKE FOREST — Angela McCauley remembers the desperation.

In January, six months before she was to graduate from high school, she learned she was pregnant with her second child.

"I said to myself, 'Man, what did I do?' " said McCauley, who first became a mother at 16. "Just graduating was hard enough, but with two babies. . . ?"

Abortion was not an option, she said. She thought of putting the baby up for adoption. Finally, she decided to keep the baby, although her relationship with her boyfriend, the father of both children, wasn't stable.

But McCauley, 18, pulled through, not only giving birth this month to a healthy baby girl, but graduating valedictorian of her class. She gives much of the credit to the emotional support offered by a "big sister" from Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County.

Through the agency's teen mother program, McCauley met Linda Parker, 38, of Dana Point, who became her friend during her difficult pregnancy and the struggle to finish high school.

"She was the friend I needed at that time in my life when I was so confused and desperate," McCauley said.

On Wednesday, 10 days after giving birth to Kayleen and with Parker by her side, McCauley said she has turned her life around. With her valedictorian's diploma from Silverado High School in Mission Viejo in hand, she now plans to marry her boyfriend, Mike Amato, who is home on leave from his Army post in Korea.

Things are happening so fast her head is spinning, McCauley said. In six months, the family will move to North Carolina, where her husband will be transferred. In about a year, she plans to go to college and get a psychology degree.

In the meantime, she vows to be a good mother to Kayleen and to 22-month-old Briana.

"She was the big difference," McCauley said, hugging Parker. "She's an angel."

Parker, married and with no children, is one of 30 big sisters to pregnant teen-agers and young mothers under the program started two years ago.

Lisa Mergl, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the girls are matched with women 25 years old or older who can spend at least six hours a week with their little sister. Both are interviewed and screened for common interests, she said.

For McCauley and Parker, who both love rock 'n' roll, share a passion for psychology, movies and flowers, it was a "perfect match," Parker said.

"I didn't know we could be close," said Parker, who sometimes spends a whole day with McCauley--shopping, eating out, going to the beach or the movies.

It has become a friendship between two adults, Parker said.

"We can tell each other anything," she said.

Diane McCauley, 42, McCauley's mother, said she is happy for her daughter.

"I'm glad for her. They just clicked together."

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