Monday, July 21, 2014

Giving teens some space

It’s no secret that the Hartsville Boys and Girls club does great work, but the Teen Center needed a serious face lift. So when the Midlands class of the spring 2014 Diversity Leadership Institute was choosing a project to work on in Hartsville, S.C., the Boys and Girls club seemed like an obvious choice.

“We had three people in our group from the Darlington/Hartsville community and another who grew up there,” said Doug Taylor, Chief Program Officer at the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and a member of the Midlands class. “It was a known need in the community that the Boys and Girls Club building was not in good shape.”

Over the past three months the group has spent time transforming the drab brown and white Teen Center into the ultimate teen hangout. The space is now an inviting bright blue, with new couches, a TV, and even study stations for the teens to comfortably do their homework. The teens will get their first peek at their new space on Thursday, when the teen center will hold its grand reopening.

But the Boys and Girls Club is about more than just giving teens a place to be. It’s about preparing our young people to be leaders in their community.

“Programs like this are so important because kids need access to caring adults when parents or guardians are at work,” Taylor said. “They need to be engaged and not just sitting around wasting time.”

That’s why Taylor’s group also made sure the Boys and Girls club staff had the resources they need to educate the teens on important life skills.

For Taylor, that meant working with the staff this summer to implement a teen pregnancy prevention curriculum, Making Proud Choices. The curriculum emphasizes safer sex by teaching teens about abstinence, condoms, communicating with their partner, and strategies to delay initiating sex.

The Boys and Girls Club staff will be able to sustain the program long after Taylor’s group has graduated, thanks to continued training from the SC Campaign and funds from the Department of Health and Environmental Control's Personal Responsibility and Education Program.

Taylor is confident the project can be sustained, thanks to the passion he found in the community.

“The best part was getting to meet and work with individuals who are committed to making their community better and who can follow through,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t ‘why don’t we try this, why don’t we try that’ they’re out there making it happen.”

by Kylee Perez, Communications Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Farewell to the SC Campaign!

Two years ago, I embarked on a journey to enhance my understanding of pregnancy prevention. I was approaching my graduation from my doctoral program at the Arnold School of Public Health at University of South Carolina and this amazing postdoctoral fellowship position presented itself at the SC Campaign. I had not worked directly in teen pregnancy prevention before, but had extensive experience in HIV prevention. After researching the SC Campaign, I knew that this position would be an ideal next step for my academic and professional career.

In June 2012, I officially became a part of the SC Campaign staff and managed the two-year collective impact project funded by The Duke Endowment. At first, I thought this position would be similar to an internship, little did I know that I was going to be responsible for coordinating schedules, creating PowerPoint presentations, developing meeting agendas, and facilitating team meetings. Right out the gate, I had a role at the SC Campaign. I was fully embraced by the staff and senior leadership of the organization and truly felt like I was a part of the team. My thoughts and ideas were always taken into consideration and some my ideas even came into fruition in the form of a webinar focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth health and a corresponding publication. Additionally, I was able to interact with partners and stakeholders from across the state and learn about what investments are truly needed to address teen pregnancy in South Carolina. On the horizon, there is a new document being developed by the SC Campaign that will assist funders and organizations that want to invest in teen pregnancy prevention. Knowing that I contributed to the creation of this document is the culmination of my efforts and it feels good.

From the start, I felt like this postdoctoral fellowship position was a nice blend between research and public health practice. Given my background in qualitative research, I had the opportunity to conduct focus groups with parents of middle school students to examine their perception of school-based teen pregnancy prevention programs. I was responsible for developing the research protocol, research questions, facilitating the focus groups, and analyzing the data. One of the highlights of my experience at the SC Campaign, was when this research was accepted for publication in the Journal of Sex Education: Sexuality, Society, and Learning’s special issue dedicated to Dr. Douglas Kirby, an adolescent sexual health researcher who I have always admired.

I knew from the start that this was only a two-year position, but I never prepared myself for all of the knowledge and skills that I would acquire from the SC Campaign in that short period of time. I served as an adjunct faculty member at South University, became a Certified Health Education Specialist, and completed the United Way’s Blueprint for Leadership program. Having the opportunity to work with a staff as talented as the SC Campaign’s, I now feel I am equipped to advocate for teen pregnancy prevention and will continue to do so as my professional career develops.

This postdoctoral fellowship has provided a solid foundation for my career. The insight and feedback that I received from fellow staff was invaluable and for that I thank everyone at the SC Campaign for their input in my professional development. And on that note, I bid you farewell!

by India Rose, former Post Doctoral Fellow, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Monday, July 7, 2014

Freedom isn’t free. And neither is birth control.

The fireworks stands are popping up on every corner reminding us of the holiday that celebrates freedom and independence. However, a recent Supreme Court decision was quick to remind us that individual freedom- freedom to decide how to plan for child-bearing and freedom to decide what is best for our bodies is often not free. On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that closely held corporations, such as Hobby Lobby, cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees if they object based on religious reasons. Our CEO, Forrest Alton, released this statement about the decision, “…when that decision-making autonomy is taken away and barriers are introduced, whether those be cost or otherwise, it makes it less likely women will choose to use the most effective methods of contraception consistently.” So while many women work in positions that will allow them access to long-acting reversible contraception (i.e. the IUD-intrauterine device) at a free or reduced cost, women who work at Hobby Lobby will not have the freedom to do the same. Of course, they can pay for it out-of-pocket but given the long-acting nature of these methods, the cost is often upwards of $500.

I find myself in a position that some may think is contradictory: I think the Supreme Court’s decision was wrong, and I am also a Christian. So where does that leave me? Does that mean that I am a lesser Christian than the executives at Hobby Lobby? I like to think that I am a Jesus-loving, women's rights supporting, Hillary in 2016 believing, firearm toting, equal rights supporting Christian. And no, I don't think that phrase is an oxymoron.

First of all, contraception is not just used by “promiscuous teens” (as you will hear some people say) but it is used by an overwhelming majority of women – young and old. The reasons for use vary, some women use contraception for the benefits to their skin and complexion, while others use it for regulating menstrual cycles, while the majority of women use it for preventing pregnancies or family planning. The long-acting reversible contraception methods (i.e., IUD, the shot, the implant), are used by many women in monogamous, exclusive relationships or marriages so they can plan for children or allow adequate space between pregnancies to help decrease the chances of complications during and after pregnancy.

While I am always in support of anyone standing up for what they think is right (even though I may not agree), it seems that if Hobby Lobby wants to use religious opposition to some forms of birth control, doesn’t that mean that they should also refuse to cover medications for diabetes and high blood pressure caused by obesity since gluttony is also a sin? Or refuse to cover psychological services that result from a sin like adultery or pornography addiction? Or perhaps refuse to cover medication that is only needed because of a sin - like medication needed because of experience with drug abuse and addiction?

Again, don’t get me wrong I am in full support of someone taking a stance for their religious freedom but shouldn’t it be an all or nothing stance? It isn’t fair to Christians as a whole when someone picks and choose the parts of the Bible that they want to enforce and then make a public stance based on religious beliefs. This type of “cherry-picking” Bible verses when it is convenient or comfortable supports the general consensus that all Christians are hypocritical and are only known for what they are against, and not what they are for (FYI –I believe my main man Jesus was for love, tolerance & forgiveness).

So as the holiday weekend approaches and we become consumed with fireworks, cookouts and dysfunctional family gatherings, consider this: the decision made by the Supreme Court directly impacted the freedom of a group of women who are employed with Hobby Lobby but even more so this decision was made loud and clear to all women who now feel more vulnerable to having their individual liberties stripped away by their employer. As anyone with a child knows, or anyone that has ever been around children, the ability to easily access and afford effective birth control options impacts everyone, not just us lucky ones born with a uterus.

Check out this TIME Magazine article to learn more about IUDs. 

by Sarah Kershner, It's Your Game Project Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Monday, June 30, 2014

Are We Ready for What's Next?

You may have heard that I’m leading a webinar this week as part of a series we have been conducting at the SC Campaign on leadership. When I agreed many months ago to facilitate this three-part series, I didn’t think much of it. Leadership is a topic that I enjoy learning about, reading about, studying and subsequently sharing what little knowledge I have with others.

The first segment in the three-part series covered the need for us to balance Leadership and Management in our roles. The second, a discussion about Leading in Difficult Times. Both of these are topics that I discuss with our senior staff frequently, topics that are very salient, and frankly, topics that I feel pretty comfortable speaking about. (Note: check out the hyperlinks if you have interest in hearing the first two installments of this series).

Who’s Got Next? is the third and final chapter in the series, where I will discuss leadership transition and developing the next generation of leaders. My comfort level on the subject wavers as I continue to read and research in preparation for the webinar. My journey has been the definition of the phrase “the more you dig, the more you uncover.” A topic that I once thought I knew something about has become a mass of data, charts, opinions and hypotheses circling in my brain that make me more panicked than ever for what comes next. But I will do my best to synthesize my experiences and research on Wednesday to begin this all-important discussion.

We are on the cusp of a never-before-seen level of transition in the workplace. As the “baby boomer” generation begins to retire in record numbers, who will take their place? My gut tells me that this scene will be especially conspicuous in the nonprofit sector.

Are we ready?  We better be…

At the very least, I hope you’ll join us on Wednesday as a beginning to this much-needed dialogue.

For more information and to register for this free webinar, click here.

by Forrest Alton, CEO, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Getting to Know our Priority Youth Specialist Rena Dixon

I sat down with Rena Dixon, Priority Youth Specialist at the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy to learn more about how she became a public health professional.  Rena has worked for the SC Campaign for four years and recently earned her Ph.D. in Community Health Promotion and Education from Walden University.

Kemi:  Describe your journey to becoming a public health professional focused on teen pregnancy prevention.

Rena: I went to undergrad thinking I was going to be an athletic trainer – very different from what I do now. They discontinued the athletic training program at my school so I had to figure out what I was going to do. At my school, you were put in health science classes to be pre-athletic training, or pre-nursing, or pre-physical therapy, so I stuck with my public health classes and I loved it. I absolutely loved it, it was great.  I did my internship with young people in the Housing Authority [of Savannah] so I really bought into working with young people, which led to my first job working at Planned Parenthood in Georgia. I learned all about pregnancy prevention, STIs, and working with young folks.  I moved away from that and really wanted to get back into it, which is why I made the switch to come back to working in sexual health all day every day.

Kemi: So, young people – that was really your driving point?

Rena: Right. I really wanted to be a person that was a resource for folks about health information.  You see so many people who don’t know the right answers or don’t know how to get the information. I thought it was really important to me as a person of color to be that voice for my own people, and my own neighborhood, and my own family. So I just kind of took off with it.

Kemi: That kind of makes me think of Beverly Bond’s talk [at Summer Institute 2014] where you’re kind of waiting for somebody else to do it [be a resource in your community then decide] I’ll just do it [instead] because other people are probably thinking the same thing, that we need so-and-so to be a role model. 

Kemi: Can you describe a typical day being a Youth Specialist?

Rena: I travel a lot. A typical day usually involves me being in the car going somewhere to meet with our providers that we work with. I do have a unique position that I work with providers all across the state and not in one particular region.  So, any given day I could be in Spartanburg, or I could be in Horry, or I could be in Charleston, or I could be in Lancaster or Rock Hill. But a typical day involves me driving to see one of our clinic partners or higher ed partners.

Kemi: So, when you say our providers, you’re talking about mostly clinics?

Rena: Yes, my position is specialized to really focus on working mostly with clinic providers to help increase their capacity to provide teen-friendly services for youth coming in, or I work with higher ed campuses to help them address teen pregnancy on their campuses.

Kemi: So, have they heard of us, or you just go in and you give them [information]?

Rena: Ninety percent (90%) of the people I work with closely are receiving some type of grant funding through us or we’re working with them on a particular project like the BlueCross BlueShield project, or the CDC project, or the PREP project, or now the PAF project. So, they’ve already been identified to work on that larger sub-project and I’m just doing my piece for that grant.

Kemi: So, how did you spend this morning?

Rena: I was doing a speaker request for a group of about 300 young people on pregnancy prevention and STIs.

Kemi: Do you do these often? Is it usually that large of a group?

Rena: Well, it’s kind of random. I think it’s always different for us because we don’t do direct service, but people still look to us to provide education and information in communities. So I do feel like we get a lot of speaker requests. Those of us in the office who are public health trainers and are comfortable getting up in front of groups usually get those requests. I did one two weeks ago and one about six months ago. It varies.

Kemi: Do you prepare a PowerPoint, or what do you do to keep young people engaged?

Rena: I did a Prezi this time because there were so many young people, I felt like I needed some visuals and I think that’s a cool, different way instead of a boring PowerPoint. Two weeks ago, I did a game with the young people because I had a smaller group of about 30, and I did two different sessions so I was able to use a game called Fact or Fiction.

Kemi: Are they [young people] pretty responsive?

Rena: Yeah, they are.  You get a lot of questions.  A lot, a lot of questions because some people don’t have anyone they feel comfortable talking to, or someone they can talk to who’s going to give them the right information.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Institute Recap

This year's Summer Institute Conference was a success thanks to all of our attendees, sponsors, speakers, vendors and staff! If you weren't able to attend this year, here's what went down...

Sarah Brown, CEO, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned
Pregnancy, and Forrest Alton, CEO, SC Campaign, have "Fireside Chat"
during the opening luncheon keynote address

Sarah Brown accepts this years Murray Vincent Award, pictured with
past recipients Rev. Don Flowers, Michelle Nimmons and Carol Singletary

Debra Chilcoat, Healthy Teen Network, presents her session "Keep It Simple:
Linking Teens to Sexual Healthcare" on Wednesday

Christina Jackson and Antquan Smith from Sea Haven talk about how to
reach runaway homeless youth on Wednesday

Eric Rowles and Pat Kelsaw of Leading to Change give an energizing session
on Thursday morning

Beverly Bond, Founder and CEO of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, delivers the
keynote address at Thursday's luncheon

SC Campaign staff take a selfie with Beverly Bond!

Party people at the 20th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday night
do the wobble

Charles Weathers presenting his power session on Friday to wrap up the conference

To view more photos from the conference, visit our Flickr page!

by Sara Lamberson, Corporate Communications Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Institute: Are You Ready?!

Our 15th annual Summer Institute conference is only two days away, and the SC Campaign wants to know...

Are you ready?!

We've got a spectacular program for you all this year, including...

Wednesday, June 11

Thursday, June 12

  • 8:30am – 10:00am       Breakout Sessions 
  • 10:15am – 11:45am     Breakout Sessions
  • 12:00pm – 1:30pm     BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Luncheon with keynote Beverly Bond
  • 1:45pm – 3:15pm         Breakout Sessions
  • 3:30pm – 5:00pm         Breakout Sessions
  • 5:00pm - 8:00pm         20th Anniversary Celebration 

Friday, June 14

  • 6:00am – 9:00am Breakfast for Embassy Suites guests
  • 9:00am – 12:00pm Power Sessions

We can't wait to welcome each of our 379 attendees so we can salut success and push for progress!

For the agenda and full listing of breakout and power sessions, click here

by Sara Lamberson, Corporate Communications Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy