June 17, 2013

For Waterville teenagers, a helping hand with growing up, being a dad

The two young men are the first males in 39 years to graduate from TeenParent School.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Teenage parents Melinda Pooler, 17, pauses while reading a textbook and working on a computer as Chris Bilodeau, 18, holds their 2-month-old daughter, Abigale, at their home in Waterville on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Kevin Hardy is one of two males to graduate from the Teen Parent School program at the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville. With him is his infant daughter, Zoey, and fiancee, Wendy Joler, at Hardy's mother's Winslow residence on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Additional Photos Below

"That's usually when I have to work in the morning," he protested. "When I don't have to get up in the morning, I stay up late with her."

"Sometimes," she said.

"Most of the time," he said.

"No, you just started doing that," she said. The matter was dropped.

When the teens get together in Woodhead's office, they compare notes on bibs or products to relieve teething pain.

They trade horror stories, scoffing at parents who smoke, drink or do drugs in front of their children. Even worse are those parents who hit their children, which Hardy calls "just ridiculous."

Bilodeau wants to be there for his daughter, he said, because he didn't meet his own father until he was 14 years old.

Hardy, who also doesn't have a good relationship with his own father, expressed similar feelings.

"We want to be better fathers to our daughters than our fathers were to us," he said.

Removing obstacles

Pooler worries about Abigale's future. Her worries are fueled, in part, by a statistic that lingers in her consciousness.

"I heard something on the radio that said that, like, 90 percent of teen parents and their children were going to be poor," she said.

Hardy said the lack of stability makes teen parenting difficult.

"You're beginning a job and you still live with your parents, and you don't know what you're going to do," he said.

Bilodeau and Hardy are working on the statistics stacked against them, one at a time.

After becoming the first dads to graduate from the parent school, they are working to find a way out of poverty.

Bilodeau considered an electrical engineering course, but he decided against it based on the high buy-in price — thousands of dollars' worth of equipment — without a guarantee of a job.

Pooler, who still has a year left in high school, would like to see him pursue a career as a teacher.

Hardy plans to become a certified nursing assistant this year. He said he has a job lined up at a nursing home where he can earn a living wage of $15 an hour by working the graveyard shift.

"I want to give Zoey the best life possible," he said. "I don't care about me. I just care about her."

His description of the need for male health care professionals, like his effort to help his family, is a mixture of awkward indiscretion, humorous honesty and an acknowledgment that he is, himself, a work in progress.

"If some big ol' lady falls down, not to be rude or nothing, but it's easier for a couple of guys to pick her up than five or six girls to pick her up," he said. "Not to be sexist."

Hardy and Bilodeau would like to overcome another statistic, produced by an independent study that found only 1 in 5 teen dads wed the mother of their first child.

While neither has set a date, both couples said they do plan to marry, another step on their journey to adulthood.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

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Additional Photos

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Kevin Hardy with his infant daughter, Zoey, on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


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