Jessica Coleman

Larry BradshawHigh School Youth Success Stories

Teenage pregnancy in America is an issue that has been silenced for far too long. In my school and in my neighborhood I see girls making the wrong choices when it comes to sex and their bodies. Since junior high school, there have been girls my age engaging in romantic relationships that most often led to unplanned pregnancy. Along with alleged gang violence, teenage pregnancy rates enabled “upper-class” people to label my neighborhood as “troubled” or “at-risk”. In a January 2010 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, the state of Iowa had a teen pregnancy rate of 51%, ranking number 10 in the nation. That is extremely high and most of all unacceptable.

Through enrollment in the Whyld Girls after school program, I have had the opportunity to learn effective ways to prevent teenage pregnancy. We have studied birth control and the effectiveness of contraceptives available to teenagers. We also talk about abstinence as the only true way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. These studies have equipped me to be able to inform my friends with the right information and stop the spread of myths. Last spring myself and ten other teens participated in a training entitled “Reducing the Risk”. It was a pregnancy prevention curriculum that focused on teenagers being prepared and having a plan to prevent pregnancy before it happens. We wrote a play and performed it at our spring community service event. This year on Martin Luther King Day the Whyld Girls launched our very own pregnancy prevention campaign, Future. The Alternative “F” Word.TM Our Main objective is to reach out to local boys and girls and inform them on the truth about teen pregnancy and the effect it has on their future. Sexual education is scarce in schools so we have made it our priority to give teenagers the information they deserve.

Along with this new campaign, we too have to stay equipped with modern and accurate information. We are now being trained under a curriculum called “Making Proud Choices”. This focuses more on the risks of unprotected sex and the common myths about HIV and AIDS. In the Whyld Girls middle school program, I assist the program coordinator with the daily lesson plan that she teaches the girls. Their curriculum, “Draw the Line, Respect the Line”, is a junior high based sexual education curriculum. The “Making Proud Choices” training enables me to assist in teaching the middle school program also. By starting in junior high and informing girls at an early age, the risk of them becoming teen parents is reduced. Our next major goal is to take our training and information to high school. I recently participated in the creation of a “Future” media package that we will circulate through high schools as another way to reduce pregnancy and keep teens informed.

For 15 years I have lived in the same neighborhood, with the same kids. I have come to realize that it is not that they want to be teen parents or they want big responsibility. The problem is they have never been taught any different. In my neighborhood, and in most lower class societies, teenage pregnancy is a cycle. Through the Future campaign and working with the Whyld Girls, I will break the cycle and shift the generational poverty. The only way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new habit, a productive habit. In order to prevent teens from becoming pregnant, I will replace ignorance with accurate information and understanding. I will replace inadequate behavior with fun, engaging activities to keep teens from engaging in risky behavior. Television glamorizes teen moms as if they have life easy. The real impact of teen pregnancy is inevitable poverty and dependency on someone else. Sure, there are girls out there that make it through, but they shouldn’t have to. I am here to inform, support, and break the cycle of teenage pregnancy; not only in my neighborhood, but in America.

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