New Mexico Has the Highest Teen Pregnancy Rate in the Nation. One Group Is There With Help—for the Dads.
How a tiny nonprofit prepares nervous young fathers for life’s biggest challenge, and then sticks with them for years to come.
Photos by Nick Fojud
In a windowless conference room at Cesar Chavez Charter High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, two teenagers sit side-by-side in padded faux-leather swivel chairs, slathering slices of pepperoni pizza with packets of ranch dressing. Seventeen-year-old Ramon Martinez and his girlfriend, Carmen Estrada, eighteen, are the parents of a six-month-old baby boy named Jaden. Every week, while family members look after their son, they and other teen parents gather to meet with Johnny Wilson, the director of the Young Fathers of Santa Fe. In a state where teen pregnancy is unusually high, this nonprofit reaches out, not to teen moms or would-be parents, but to young dads throughout central and northern New Mexico. Moms are welcome to join the fathers at select gatherings, as the team’s top priority is to foster cooperation between both parents, in addition to teaching the young men about things like visitation and custody arrangements, how to get and keep a job, and how to…