By Cameron Zohoori
Parenthood is not something I think about much on a daily basis. I’m able to make day-to-day decisions without regard to children or other dependents. But for many of the youth at UTEC, parenting is a normal part of their lives. More of the young people I have spent time with than not are parents. Some had their first child as young as 16, and in many cases their children are now a driving force behind their presence at UTEC.
In the past several weeks, I have spent a lot of time with a group of young men from the building trades work crew here at UTEC, accompanying them in their workdays and listening to their stories. Too often the stories are of childhoods that didn’t last long enough; of parents that were not present, or didn’t provide the support necessary for their children to succeed. But a common and remarkable thread has emerged. Many of these young men are also young fathers, driven to transform their lives and give their children a future they perhaps never envisioned for themselves.
Remarking on many of these young parents, UTEC transitional coach Tom Sun says, “When you have children either it changes you completely or you’re just completely pushed away. It’s never really in between. The father that embraces their children and accepts that responsibility…that’s your foundation, that gives you that drive.” And Geoff Foster, Associate Director of Political Action, says there can be even more significant changes in outlook for young fathers. “You see it a lot when our young men have kids. There’s a transformation that happens… they see themselves as good people that don’t need to be tough. They start to become proud of that – yeah I’m making goo-goo-ga-ga noises at my baby, what? That’s not tough? Well I’m a good father. So maybe a good father doesn’t have to be tough.”
Here, then, are a few of these fathers in their own words: