Grace Hooley | Echo
Ivy Oleson is a psychology senior here at Taylor. She is also a daughter, sister, fiance, friend and mother of a four-year-old son named Levi.
Oleson grew up in Aurora, Ill. She went to a small, private Christian school and had an older sister who she felt stole the spotlight of her parents. She wanted more attention from her dad in particular, who worked at her high school.
"So, I kind of turned to other things," Oleson said.
Freshman year of high school, Oleson started dating someone older, and soon after had her first experience with abuse. It was over a year before anything changed. Junior year, she started dating someone else and quickly realized it was heading down the same path, but that one was a scarier situation.
After a few months of being with him, she found out she was pregnant with Levi. Depression, anxiety, judgement and a cycle of losing friends shortly ensued, and three months after she found out she was pregnant, her boyfriend left her.
"I just felt very abandoned," Oleson said. "As soon as I found out, I never waivered that I was going to keep the baby."
Her family stood by her through this time. However, she was nervous to tell her father.
She wrote her dad a letter explaining what happened, and the morning she was going to give it to him, God told her father she was pregnant before she told him. He was prepared to hear the news, and he supported her through it all.
"Emotionally and mentally, the thing that helped me was my family," Oleson said.
Her private, Christian school was not as supportive and understanding. Oleson experienced judgment and the loss of friends.
Because Oleson decided to keep the baby as her own, this led to issues. She was soon asked to leave her high school.
"So, if I would have gotten rid of my son, I would have gotten to stay," Oleson said. "Which was a hard thing because with a Christian community, you expect them to stand beside you."
She began going to the Pregnancy Information Center. It was here that she saw her son for the first time in an ultrasound.
This helped Oleson begin to figure things out. She ended up getting her GED and started going to community college.
"I thought it (Pregnancy Information Center) was going to be the same thing (as what she experienced in her high school)," Oleson said. "I was really nervous about that because I didn't know what they would say."
Her older sister, Sarina (Oleson) Lashbrook ('16 grad), had talked to people about Ivy's situation, and someone reached out to Sarina and said they would like to help her sister. Then, she began to receive emails from Taylor.
Oleson applied to Taylor and got accepted. After this, she entered into meetings with admissions on campus about what it would look like to have Oleson come here.
"They just really made me feel safe," Oleson said. "That was the most difficult part of coming to Taylor, just knowing I was going to be judged."
Her freshman year, Oleson's mother lived off campus with Levi while Oleson lived on Third East Olson. While Ivy experienced some judgement her freshman year, she found hope in the women who cared and loved her regardless.
Scott Oleson, Ivy's dad, was offered a job before her sophomore year began. Her family moved to Upland, and Scott began as an admissions counselor.
"My wife and I are just blown away by the transformation that has taken place," Scott Oleson said. "It was really an amazing opportunity we are grateful for. I believe so much in this place. It takes a big family to come alongside and help these girls out who are in situations like this. It takes a Pregnancy Help Center (in Marion) and a Taylor University."
When starting out at Taylor, Oleson prefered her family didn't bring Levi on campus, but all of the students just loved him and came alongside him. That was what started to help Oleson open up into accepting her little boy.
Her fiance, senior Mitchell Whedon, met her through mutual friends. They started to hang out and do homework together until they started dating.
"It's been really good for the both of us," Oleson said. "For some reason, I had this fear he wouldn't want to stay with me (if he knew)."
While dating, she didn't open up very much. Although he knew Ivy had a son, she didn't end up telling Whedon everything about her past until about a year into their relationship. Then, she wrote him a letter and told him. He responded with so much love and kindness.
As a football player at Taylor, Whedon was encouraging about bringing Levi to football events, even if Oleson was unsure about it. The football players loved Levi and accepted him and Oleson, and Levi even calls Whedon "dad."
"After that, I knew he would be the one I would want to marry. . . . That just can't come soon enough," Oleson said. "We already feel like a close little family."
During her time at Taylor, the Pregnancy Help Center in Marion aided Oleson in her walk through motherhood.
This past summer, she got an internship with the Center in Marion that assisted her. Now, she volunteers as a client advocate. When women come into the help center, they get free pregnancy tests and lessons in understanding what motherhood is.
"I had a supervisor named Katie, and she just supported me and poured into me," Oleson said. "She helped me understand that my story can really have an impact on other people. She helped me understand that I can really help these girls who walk through these doors. . . . especially in this community, there is a lot more of this happening than we realize."
Oleson is currently a CrossFit coach at Taylor, and she works in Muncie at the CrossFit gym. CrossFit helped her lose 70 pounds after the pregnancy, and it helped her feel more confident.
Levi is also a part of the CrossFit team here. He wants the readers of The Echo to know that he likes to color and watch TV with his mom. He also exercises with her when he can.
"I like to play cars," Levi said.
Oleson's plans after Taylor include being a mom, a wife and helping with the Pregnancy Help Center. She is excited for her time to just focus on Levi and Whedon.
Oleson said that she wouldn't change a thing about her story, and she encourages the Taylor community to welcome people who are different from them because you never know what someone's story might be.