Teen fathers are often referred to as the forgotten partners: the ones who leave at the uttering of “I’m pregnant,” from their teen girlfriends.
Gordon Central High School student Tyshuan Clemmons is one of the fathers who shatters this stigma.
When Clemmons isn’t playing football, basketball, running track or going to class, he’s with his nearly two-year old son, Angelson.
Clemmons, who maintains a relationship with the mother of his child, Diana Hernandez, said he had no thoughts of leaving once he found out Hernandez was pregnant.
“It’s just as much my responsibility as hers,” he said. “ I didn’t want to be a punk and not be there.”
Clemmons said he was on his way to Virginia when he received a phone call with the news that he would be a father.
“I was shocked, like a wall fell in,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what to think.”
Although he admits he was bewildered at the thought of having a baby at 16, Clemmons now can’t picture his life without Angelson.
“He’s the reason why I’m in the position of doing something big with my life, so without him, there is no life to live for,” he said.
Hernandez and Clemmons, who play softball and basketball for Gordon Central, respectively, have been dating since middle school and are both juniors at the high school. Clemmons attributes their academic and athletic successes to a good support system.
“We have so much support from everyone, and I don’t worry about anything going bad between us,” he said.
Clemmons said teachers, family and friends have all helped the couple maintain good grades in school and participate in school athletics by being understanding of their situation.
“If she (Hernandez) has practice and so do I, her friends will change their plans and watch him for a couple of hours,” he said. “Our coaches are like ‘you can bring him out there and let him play outside.’”
Angelson, who will turn 2 in December, has taught Clemmons to be more responsible.
“He’s taught me how to always follow my heart to get where I want to be and to have him where he needs to be,” Clemmons explained.
Although he admits being a teen parent isn’t easy – there are education, sports, doctors appointments and day care to balance - he advises teen fathers to get involved with their children.
“Know that anybody can be a daddy, but it takes a real person to actually want to be there for their child and be a father,” he said.
Clemmons and Hernandez plan to graduate from Gordon Central in 2013 and attend a college afterward. Clemmons said he is already receiving scholarship opportunities to play football at some universities.
He hopes to play football professionally.
Teen fathers, the statistics:
Unlike most mothers, who bond with their children during pregnancy, fathers often do not report developing a bond until after birth, according to a 2002 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study.
The same study also revealed that 51 percent of males, ages 12-19 who participated in the study thought that sex and pregnancy are not a big deal.
However, another study conducted by the Ford Foundation in 2005 revealed that most young fathers under the age of 19 want to help their partners and children, but do not know how, or do not have the resources.
The Family Resource Center in Calhoun offers a Nurturing Fathers at the Voluntary Action Center every Tuesday, 6-8 p.m. in response to this problem. The class offers parent training to fathers and spreads awareness to participants about the vital part they play in their children’s lives.
More information about teen pregnancy can be found at www.thenationalcampaign.org or www.gordonconnection.org.
More information about these studies can be found at www.thenationalcampaign.org/males or www.fordfoundation.org/Issues.