WINDHAM – At age 13, Desirea Limanni experienced something that would overwhelm many adults.

Her mother, Amy Limanni, died unexpectedly at their home in Westbrook, leaving Desirea and her three younger siblings in the care of their father, Scott Limanni.

As the oldest child, Desirea felt that she had to hold it together for everyone else. She was in eighth grade.

“I couldn’t cry around my bothers or my sister because they were so young and they didn’t understand,” Limanni said. “My sister wanted to know why we couldn’t go visit Mommy in heaven.”

Despite her best efforts to stay on track, Limanni would stumble briefly, getting pregnant and having a baby during her freshman and sophomore years at Windham High School.

But ultimately she would triumph, graduating earlier this month in the top fifth of Westbrook High School’s class of 2010. She received several scholarships to study nursing at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish in the fall.

Throughout Limanni’s struggles, getting an education was a primary source of solace and motivation. It still is.

“School is just so important to me,” Limanni said. “When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. After I got pregnant, I realized I had to buckle down and become independent so I can provide my son the best life I can.”

Always a good student, Limanni focused on school work as a way to cope immediately following her mother’s death. At the time, she was in an advanced math class at Wescott Junior High School in Westbrook that allowed her to study at her own pace.

“I would do as much math homework as I could every night,” Limanni said. “I kind of lost myself in it.”

After her mother’s death, Limanni moved in with her grandparents, Kathie and Jim Demmons, who live on Highland Lake, and enrolled at Windham High School. Unfortunately, the new school wasn’t a good fit and her studies were no longer enough to keep her focused.

“I never hated school in my life, but I did then,” Limanni said. “It was hard to make friends and I felt so alone.”

She still had friends in Westbrook, however, including a boyfriend. She got “a little rebellious,” she said, and found herself pregnant halfway through her freshman year at Windham High. Her son, Eric, was born that summer. Her relationship with the baby’s father ended soon after.

Early on, Limanni accepted full responsibility for her child, taking care of Eric whenever she wasn’t in school. It meant she had to give up extracurricular activities, including cross country running, which she loved. And she couldn’t go out whenever her friends called. But Limanni didn’t mind.

“I lost a couple of friends because of it, but they didn’t have to mature as fast as I did,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave Eric with my grandparents all the time because I don’t think that’s right.”

Limanni said she’s one of five girls who had babies around the same time, and she’s the only one who stayed in school and didn’t turn over responsibility for their children to their parents or grandparents.

“They do whatever they want without any concern for their children,” she said. “I makes me angry. They had sex. I just think they should grow up and take responsibility.”

Limanni completed her sophomore year at Windham High. After getting her driver’s license and persuading her grandparents, who had become her legal guardians, she transferred to Westbrook High. She never looked back.

She has a boyfriend, Kenny Plummer, another 2010 graduate of Westbrook High and Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. He’s already certified to be a firefighter and will soon take the certification test to be an emergency medical technician. They’ve been together for nearly two years.

“Kenny has been good to me and Eric,” Limanni said. “Not many guys would go out with a girl who has a child and pretty much take responsibility for him.”

Limanni credits her grandparents and other family members with supporting her throughout high school. The admiration is mutual.

“We’re so proud of Desirea,” said Kathie Demmons, her grandmother. “She’s a strong young woman.”

Limanni plans to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, who has been a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center for two decades. Limanni said she may specialize in psychiatric nursing.

“I like the idea of helping people who can’t necessarily help themselves,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]