1 in 2000: Hailey Gregory ’18

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1 in 2000: Hailey Gregory ’18

Jiung Jung

As a five-year-old child, Hailey Gregory ’18 was oblivious to the enormity of the scenario unfolding before her.

Gregory and her mother were grilling hot dogs in their backyard on a warm afternoon after a routine visit to Gregory’s uncle’s house. The peaceful situation quickly escalated to turmoil when the police made an unexpected appearance at their house.

“All of a sudden, she started crying and I was really confused,” Gregory said. “The police grabbed me and took me towards a car, and all I remember was being really confused.”

After the police separated the two, Gregory was sent to a foster family. Even at this point, Gregory was unsure of what had truly happened.

“I had visits with my mom while I was in foster care, and at this point I thought [our separation] was temporary,” Gregory said. “But suddenly, I stopped seeing her.”

When Gregory grew older and older, the truth began to sink in. She would not see her mother again for a very long time.

“I had been told by my birth mom when I was little that some people might take me away, and I was too little to understand what she meant,” Gregory said. “I remember she had a lot of boyfriends and had problems with drugs and alcohol.”

It had turned out that her mother had been taken away due to an illegal usage of drugs.

As Gregory progressed through her arduous childhood, she began to grow passionate about many different things; however, one passion still sticks with her today.

“I’m very passionate about the ocean; anything about the ocean interests me,” Gregory said. “The ocean is mysterious and we don’t know much about it.”

She has taken her interest in water and made good use of it. She has swam competitively at the club and high school level. Along with this, she is currently a teacher and a lifeguard at the Coralville Aquatic Center.

“I love swimming with the kids,” Gregory said. “It’s hard work but a lot of fun.”

Growing up without her birth mom has been tough, but she fights through it clinging onto the hope of seeing her again one day.

“It’s hard sometimes knowing that she’s out there,” Gregory said. “I hope she’s okay because I legally get to see her again when I turn 18.”

Gregory also has one picture remaining of her mother and her together to get her through the long days.

“I have a picture of my mom and me feeding a baby tiger,” Gregory said. “I keep that picture with me everywhere.”

Gregory has an optimistic outlook for the future. She plans on studying marine biology hoping one day to make a career out of it.

“I look at [my separation from my mother] as a good thing,” Gregory said. “I would have never had the opportunities that I had today if it never happened.”

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