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Choices: Unplanned pregnancy changes course of teen dad’s life

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON www.GrandLakeNews.com.

by Kaylea M. Hutson

"Dad" was not something Derrick Jones thought he would be become known as a teenager.

Athlete and jock were more familiar labels marking his life in high school.

Choices, however, led to the title of dad being bestowed upon him at a young age.

Although becoming a young parent changed many things in his life, the now 20-year-old father of one said he wouldn't trade the label for anything else.

He loves being a dad to his 4-year-old son.

"It never crossed my mind [not to be a dad]," Jones said. "I knew it was going to be difficult, but it was not going to be the end of the world."

Pregnant in high school

A month and a day before before turning 16, Jones found out he was going to be a father. 

Jones said he and his then-girlfriend had been dating for one and a half years when they found out she was pregnant. They remained together throughout the pregnancy and early days of their son's life. 

"For me, it made me a better person," Jones said. "It made me apply myself on something other than myself.

"I was pretty arrogant, a teenager without a care in the world." 

A multi-sport athlete, Jones was just completing his sophomore year when he and his girlfriend found out they were seven months pregnant. 

With his son's delivery within weeks, Jones said he immediately went out and found a job. 

He said family support helped smooth the way for the next stage in his life.

He admits it was hard to tell his father and grandparents, but once the initial shock wore off, they were some of his biggest supporters. His then-girlfriend's parents helped the couple have their son and remain in school.

Jones continued to work throughout the remaining two years of high school. The district's alternative education program helped him complete his education while balancing work and family demands.

"I could work close to 40 hours a week, go to school and still be a dad," Jones said. 

He was also able to restart his track career, in the hopes of catching a college coach's eye and eventually earn scholarship funds to pay for a college education.

Jones said his track coach was another key supporter during his last two years of high school. 

"He was always there for me," Jones said, admitting telling his coach about the pregnancy was tough. "It was like telling a parent."

Ultimately, Jones earned a college scholarship to a school away from Delaware County.

Instead of leaving, he chose to remain at home and attend community college. Being a hands-on dad become more important than being a collegiate track star.

Sharing responsibilities

Jones shares custody of his son with his former girlfriend. Following their breakup in 2013, they now share physical custody, with drop offs and pick ups taking place on Thursdays and Sundays.

Jones said despite splitting up, the couple approach parenting as a team.

"Every decision we make is for his best interest," he said.

Lessons learned

Jones said becoming a teenage parent taught him accountability.

"We were adult enough to make the decision to have a baby, we needed to be accountable for our actions," Jones said. 

Rather than "opt out" of the situation, Jones said he decided to "man up" and become a father.

"Most people might choose to pass the child along to their parents or grandparents, or choose adoption or abortion," Jones said.

Jones said he chose instead to stand up for his convictions and do what he knew was right. 

"It was the way I was raised," he said. 

Sacrifices, choices

Jones knows he is not the typical teen father. 

"The stereotypical teen dad is a loser – at least that's what society thinks of me," Jone said. "It's unfair.

"We [Jones and his son's mom] both know we are not 'typical' but it's hard when people make assumptions."

Jones knows his education is key for future success. His employer has exposed him to another side of sports, teaching him different aspects of the business.

"I didn't want to have anything hold me back," Jones said. "There's no excuses on why I couldn't get educated while still having a (child)."

He has one more semester of schooling to complete at the community college. In the spring, if things continue as planned, he will transfer to an area university to pursue a business management degree.

He hopes to complete much of the degree online, to allow him to limit his commuting and continue to work and raise his son.

Jones said being a dad shapes all of his decisions.

"Everything I've done or worked for, has been for him," Jones said. "He's a blessing, honestly."

Ultimately, becoming a parent changed Jones for the better.

"I was arrogant, and not dedicated to my studies. I wouldn't want to change how it is now," Jones said. "There's no telling what I'd do if I didn't have my son."

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