Driving the extra mile, commuting as a parent and student


Cody Sturgill found out he was going to be a dad at 20 years old.
Photo by Kayla Drake

KAYLA DRAKE | Reporter

Cody Sturgill takes more than three hours to drive to and from Lindenwood University each day.


He’s a parent and a student. Sturgill wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to get to his 8 a.m. radio production class on time. Leaving the house two hours before class ensures he can make it from Crystal City, where he and his girlfriend live, and travel to South City to his mom’s house.

There his mom takes care of Callie, Sturgill’s daughter, four days a week. After Sturgill drops Callie off, he heads over the bridge to St. Charles for class.

The couple lives in Crystal City to stay closer to his girlfriend’s work.

But he wasn’t always this focused.

“Before to get him out of bed before 10 o’clock was a challenge. Now he’s up at 6 a.m. and goes to bed at 10 o’clock,” Cody’s mom, Tina said.

Cody frequently partied and took full advantage of college life. So when Lauren, a friend he was “on and off” with, told him she was pregnant, he was shocked.

“We had a lot of tears and we had a lot of ‘what’s going to happen?’” Tina said.

The thing Cody was most afraid of was not being a dad.

“But the fear of losing what I had,” Cody said about his lifestyle before Callie.

Cody was 20 years old, a junior in college when he found out. Lauren and he decided to stay together.

“It was weird at first. We had to really learn how each other worked,” he said.

But the minute Callie was born, a switch flipped. Cody cried as soon as he saw her.

“All of the worry and fear went away,” he said.

A switch flipped

Now Cody is 22 years old and Callie is 2.

He said TV shows like “16 and Pregnant” exaggerate young parents’ situations, but still he doesn’t want to be stereotyped.

“We see a bunch of people our age… on the weekends they just give their kid off to their parents and then they go out and they’re just drinking,” Cody said. “I get it. You need a break, but we see people do it every weekend. And then you’re really not there, you’re just someone who had the kid.”

Cody and Lauren have a house and wanted to live away from home to prove they could be parents. Six months after Callie was born, the couple moved from his parent’s house to Lee’s Summit, Kansas, five hours from St. Louis.

“Family didn’t want us to go because Callie was so young and we were still a fresh couple in a sense, but it really gave us time to work on ourselves and our relationship and us as parents,” Cody said.

After a year, the couple decided to move back to the St. Louis area so Cody could finish his public relations degree.

Cody’s adviser and advertising professor, Krista Tucciarone, said she’s seen the switch flip in Cody. She said they have been able to understand each other more because, like her, he’s had a full day before he even gets to her class at 9 a.m.

Cody just got a job to be the communications specialist and social media person for a cybersecurity startup. Next stop is graduation in December.

“I’ve already been here for four years,” he said. “I at least am finishing for myself.”

A big Italian family

Cody grew up in the “compound,” a row of four houses in South City, near the Hill, St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood. Aunts, uncles, cousins and his grandma occupy the houses.

“Because of my grandma and grandpa, I’ve always wanted that big family aspect. That’s why I’ll go out of my way to be even more maternal in a sense,” Cody said.

Both his mother and grandmother, Ruth Madalon, take care of Callie.

“My parents go above and beyond,” he said. “My mom watches her Monday through Thursday. As soon as I brought it up and my mom never asks for money or anything.”

Sometimes Cody said he needs to tell his parents to back off because he wants to practice parenting himself. Tina said she understands, but finds it hard as a first time grandma.

“We tried to let them make their own mistakes and stay out of the way… as much as my Italian heritage would let me,” Tina said.

As for Cody’s grandma, Madalon, 80, said “[Callie] keeps me young.”


Cody Sturgill plays with his 2-year-old daughter, Callie.
Photo from Cody Sturgill

Miracle child

Lauren, Cody’s partner has Polycystic ovary syndrome, a disorder that affects her ovaries and fertility. Four different specialists told Lauren she couldn’t have children.

“And if she did it would be a miracle, a one in a million chance,” Cody said. “She doesn’t produce enough eggs to conceive.”

So when Lauren told Cody she was pregnant, he was concerned. Doctors even told them after Callie was born that the baby could possibly die.

But there were no complications though pregnancy or in birth.

“[Callie] is a whirlwind of excitement and happiness and angry toddler,” Cody said. “She even has a little teenager in her now. She’s honestly the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”

And his advice for other young parents? Don’t hold back.

“I was just scared and I missed a lot of her pregnancy and being able to feel bumps and stuff, so that’s something I do regret,” he said.

Cody is now working on getting a ring to propose to Lauren. The couple plans on getting married in 2020 in Colorado.

“We already did all the details and plans, and so now it’s just on me to get the ring.”

Editor’s note: Cody Sturgill’s partner’s name has been changed to maintain anonymity for her employment.