In Haverhill, Mass.,19-year-old Jeremy is trying to break a cycle that he says began with his grandfather, continued with his father and will stop with his 1-year-old son Carter: boys growing up without their fathers.
"My dad walked out on me before I was born so I grew up without an actual father figure," he said. "I realized that having my own son ... I can't do that to my own flesh and blood."
Jeremy is among the small percentage of teenage fathers who remain in their children's lives. According to The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, only two out of 10 teen dads will marry the mother of their first-born. It's a statistic that's daunting for teen girls and their parents.
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Jeremy met his girlfriend Aliki more than two years ago in science class. She was a 15-year-old sophomore, and he was the older bad boy. Aliki liked his blue eyes; he thought she was hot, and the rest is history. The romance eventually fizzled, but five months later, Jeremy got a call at work from Aliki.
She was pregnant.
After Aliki broke the news, a nervous Jeremy drove to her house to face the firing squad, in the form of her father, Alan.
"Her dad was pretty harsh," Jeremy said. "He threatened to throw me in jail but ... I just took a step inside and closed the door behind me, and like that, my respect was earned." In that moment, Jeremy says he went from a boy to a man.
Alan showed the same strength. "What was I supposed to do?" he asked. "She was pregnant. I figure at this point she needs me more than before she got pregnant. I'll give him credit, even though I seriously would have liked to give him a good ass kicking."
Jeremy moved in with Aliki's family a few weeks later, though she gave him the option not to.
"We liked each other but we weren't going out," Aliki said. "After everything was said and done, he knew I was pregnant. I told him, 'Look, ... if you still want to go out with me, you know, I still like you, if not, I understand."
The young couple tried to rebuild their relationship as Aliki's hormones raged and her body changed. Four months later, on Christmas Day, Jeremy nervously proposed to a nearly nine-month pregnant Aliki. Days later, their son Carter was born.
Aliki's parents Alan and Georgia agreed to watch Carter during the day as long as Aliki and Jeremy continued with their educations.
Strenuous. Relaxing. Scary. Exciting. Aliki uses all those words to describe the balancing act of school, work and child care.
"It's the most mixed feelings you could ever get," she said. "It's like waking up on Christmas morning and hearing someone died in your family. There's a whole level of excitement, but then there's that part of you that's like, 'what do I do?'"
Jeremy took on his new role as father and partial provider with determination. Up at 6:30 a.m. and out the door by 7:10 a.m. for a full day of school, Jeremy is at work by 4 p.m. He takes any shifts he can get at the local pub where he is a short order cook.
"I work between 40 to 50 hours a week along with going to school. It took me a year-and-a-half to get from washing dishes to cooking. ... Some people say that I'm not going to be able to do it all the time, but it is all mindset. If you set your mind to it, you can do anything," he said.