Kirsty Johnston is an investigative reporter at the New Zealand Herald.

Teen dad ready for responsibility of head boy role

Noa Woolloff says his relationship with Kyla's mother is good and he intends to pay for all of his daughter's nappies and formula with earnings from part-time work and coaching. Photo / Mark Coote
Noa Woolloff says his relationship with Kyla's mother is good and he intends to pay for all of his daughter's nappies and formula with earnings from part-time work and coaching. Photo / Mark Coote

Teenage father, musician, top tennis player, student. It would seem Noa Woolloff already had enough responsibilities.

But this year, the 17-year-old also plans to take on a role as a young leader, after being made head boy at his high school.

The Aotea College pupil says he hopes to inspire other students by continuing to be a positive role model despite his unplanned fatherhood: "I've wanted the role of head boy since Year 9," Noa said.

"I just thought, having a baby shouldn't stop me. If anything, it gives me more motivation and drive."

Noa, from Paraparaumu, north of Wellington, found out his former girlfriend was pregnant with a baby girl at the end of 2014.

Worried about what his parents would think, and not wanting to cause stress for his mum - who was also pregnant at the time - he chose to keep the baby a secret until after she was born.

It was an awful few months, he said, and he would have struggled even more without the help of his friends and the school counsellor.

"No one at school approached me for a while, although they knew my ex was pregnant," he said.

Noa Woolloff says being a father to  9-month-old Kyla gives him "if anything ... more motivation and drive".   Photo / Mark Coote
Noa Woolloff says being a father to 9-month-old Kyla gives him "if anything ... more motivation and drive". Photo / Mark Coote

"At the beginning of the year I was zoning in and out of class, just listening to music all the time ... eventually the dean came up to me about what was going on. I broke into tears. It was good to have someone confront me about it. It had been a real elephant in the room for so long."

Noa still wasn't sure about telling his parents, however. In the meantime, his mum had her own baby, a boy.

"I was at the hospital visiting mum, and then two days later I was sneaking out to see my daughter born on a Sunday night, and then going to school the next morning on no sleep," he said.

"I just didn't want to cause trouble."

It took until baby Kyla was 3 months old for Noa to get up the courage to break the news, first to his mum and then to his dad. He'd been in a counselling session at school where he was told it was similar to jumping off a diving board - the longer you wait the harder it is.

Noa's mum, Siggy Woolloff, says she got a text from Noa on that day, saying "are you up for a talk".

"I thought he was either going to say he's gay or having a baby," Mrs Woolloff said.

"Of course it was a shock to find out I was already a grandma. But in his mind he thought he was being honourable, he thought it would be stressful. I just told him that new life was a blessing and I was still proud of him."

Mrs Woolloff, who had Noa at 18, said it was sad to think her son went through so much on his own, but she believed his courage now was an inspiration.

"I know it can be a positive, I've been there. I think he will be great this year because you never want to do the best you want to do as much as when you've got a young person watching you."

Baby Kyla is now 9 months old. She is cared for by her grandmother while her mum is at school. Working part-time at a supermarket and coaching tennis, Noa aims to pay for all the nappies and formula each week. He has a good relationship with Kyla's mum and visits every day. Kyla comes to stay once a fortnight, where she loves to play with his baby brother Jimmy and boss him about.

Last year was a big learning curve, Noa said, but he believes it's for the best. He's confident he can cope with academics, playing first XI football, national-level tennis, recording music, being a dad and his leadership job.

"I've changed a lot as a person this past year. I'm more emotionally aware. I just see the bigger picture now," he said.

"I've learned, and it's something my mum said to me: if you stand proud, no one can judge you.

"You know, there's not many role models out there for young teens, no one to look up to. And I think that's maybe why I didn't want to tell anyone, because I felt I wanted them to still look up to me. But I've learned I can still inspire others, by breaking stereotypes. There's a big cloud over teen parents and I'm hoping to change that."

Declining to put his name forward for a leadership role - despite his many commitments - wasn't something Noa considered. He had a meeting with principal Kate Gainsford and told her "from the heart" he wanted to do it.

Mrs Gainsford said Noa's role as a parent didn't detract from his capacity to hold a leadership role at the school.

"He's a hard worker, thoughtful, wants to look after others, an excellent academic student and an excellent sportsman ... he's very positive and doesn't shy [from] responsibility. That's why we gave him the job."

She said it was the school's role to support students in whatever situations they faced, and it was important to look after young people, particularly those facing big challenges.

"Noa is very keen to turn his challenges into pluses. And we will help him with that."

Extra help for high school parents

According to Statistics NZ 2,895 babies were born to women aged between 15-19 years in 2014.

There were 27 births to girls under 15 in the same year.

Incidentally it was the lowest recorded figure in 17 years.

High school parents are provided for by Teen Parent Units, which are special schools that help teen mothers to finish school.

The units - for pregnant women and new mothers - provide NCEA classes, on-site childcare and community support services such as doctors and nurses.

There are 24 Teen Parent Units around New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

Your views

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 10 Dec 2016 22:54:45 Processing Time: 275ms