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West Valley City • Carlos Tavares casually trots across the pitch. He resembles an everyday, typical teenager wearing a blue-and-red-striped Barcelona jersey.

Playing for the Granger boys' soccer program, Carlos jokes with his teammates, who, on spring break, are competing in a three-on-three tournament against each other.

Carlos is average in height and bulky in size. He's Hispanic, with a trimmed, well-manicured haircut. These characteristics are easily observed from the exterior, but hidden inside are his dreams of one day owning his own construction company. He worked grueling hours as a landscaper this past summer, gaining invaluable experience in the industry, but first he wants to graduate with a degree in business or engineering. He hasn't decided which yet.

He believes soccer can help finance his education, too. The future is mapped out in his mind. But most kids fantasize about their future profession and ambitions. That hardly makes him unique. In fact, reserved, and, at times, outright timid — Carlos blends in.

But he is no ordinary high school student. Carlos is a 17-year-old father motivated to provide for his girlfriend, Marilin Marin, and his nearly 3-month-old daughter, Abigail.

"It happened," Carlos said of becoming a young parent. "You got to step up. You've got to be mature."

Two pink lines

Unlike most adolescent love stories, which oftentimes are lust in disguise, romance didn't exactly blossom overnight between Carlos and Marilin.

In ninth grade, Marilin played soccer for Valley Junior High, where Carlos served as the team manager. He was ultra-shy back then, too, so until Marilin initiated conversation, their interactions were limited to awkward exchanges.

"I would say hi and go to class," Carlos said sheepishly.

From there, however, the two bonded.

"We became friends," Marilin explained. "It came to a point, every day after school — he'd be here."

The relationship continued to progress physically in nature. Carlos declined to answer if they used contraceptives, but said he was educated about safe sex practices.

"Kind of like the basic things in school," he said.

Teenage pregnancies have continued to drop nationwide, and according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2,163 girls in Utah, ranging from ages 15 to 19, gave birth in 2014, which is significantly lower than the national average.

However, of those girls, 776 were Hispanic, equating to 52.5 births per 1,000 girls — easily the highest ratio for any race or ethnicity.

Pamela Perlich, the director of demographic research at the University of Utah, said multiple cultural factors potentially influence the higher percentage of teenage pregnancies in the Hispanic community.

"One possibility is it's a new-American phenomenon," Perlich said. "Having new situations where kids don't have the supervision in the afternoon that maybe they had in their sending countries because parents are so busy working."

While Hispanics have the highest rate of teenage pregnancies, they've also experienced the most significant drop. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hispanic teenage pregnancies have declined 50 percent since 2007, as more teens in general are educated to avoid engaging in risky sexual behaviors.

But for those youth who do conceive in their teens, including Marilin and her sister, the situation is never child's play. Marilin waited an entire month before telling Carlos she was late.

"I didn't know what to do," she recalled. "I was scared to tell him, but, I mean, I had to."

The pregnancy test revealed two pink lines: positive. Instantly life changed forever. Carlos took responsibility and found a basement apartment to rent for $750 a month during the summer.

They were 16 years old, living together, with a baby on the way. It wasn't sustainable with school starting in the fall, so the couple moved into Marilin's parents' home near Granger High for support.

After dropping out of school, Marilin cares for Abigail while her parents purchase necessary supplies and Carlos attends class to work toward his goal of going to college.

They don't have much. The apartment is constrained and flooded with people. Yet complaints are rarely voiced. They have each other, and as they'll tell you: That's more than enough.

"She's everything to us. She's our world. She's my baby," Marilin said. "… To think back at how crazy it is. Everyone has a story to tell. Never in my life [would I] think we'd be here as we are now. [Carlos] appeared in my life, and he was just a big blessing."

Pursuing a dream

Carlos is one of the final players to exit the bus for the seventh game of the season at Viewmont. The Lancers are greatly outmatched against the third-ranked Vikings, and before the day concludes, they'll see their record fall to 2-5.

Granger isn't headed for a state championship, but for Carlos, a defender in his senior year, playing this season is far more meaningful than wins and losses.

He's improving his grades. That's step one. The second is getting noticed in soccer. Carlos is following what he believes is the blueprint to college, and Granger coach Hyrum Okeson thinks he has the talent to reach his goal.

"He's very technically skilled. He understands the game really well. He's one of the best I've coached," Okeson said. "We're just trying to get the right coaches to look at him."

Though it's painful to do so, Carlos continues to suit up despite injuring his hip in one of two recent auto collisions. Insurance covers the cost of physical therapy, but time is more valuable in a hectic schedule. Rehabilitation is yet another obstacle for Carlos on his pursuit to provide for his family.

"It would mean a lot," Carlos says succinctly of playing in college.

Marilin injects: "I would be really proud of him. He's such a hard worker for everything he achieves."

No one would blame Carlos if he walked away from the game, but he refuses to be deterred. Each morning, he wakes early to help with Abigail before heading to school. He attends practice and therapy afterward and returns home to study. He used to stay out late with friends, but his priorities shifted once he became a father.

"It went through my mind," he reminisces, "'Now I'll have to be someone in life for my daughter.'"

Carlos and Marilin have discussed marriage, but they're not ready. Becoming parents doesn't require getting hitched, although they're thinking about tying the knot in six years or so. Right now, they're focused on completing prior stages of life.

It's been a difficult journey for Carlos. From afar, he may appear to be a regular kid, but if you listen closely to conversations among the Granger players, it's simple to understand he's anything but ordinary.

"They call me 'Dad' now," Carlos said. "I'm proud of it."

Twitter: @trevorphibbs —

About Carlos Tavares

The Granger High student dreams of attending college, and he believes soccer is his best avenue to accomplish his goal. However, playing this season has not been easy. He is a new father to a nearly 3-month-old daughter and is living in a small apartment with his girlfriend's family, and was injured in two separate auto collisions. At age 17, he wakes early to care for his child before attending school. He attends practice and physical therapy afterward and returns home to study, all with the motivation to provide for his young family by receiving a college education.