Thursday, March 24, 2011

When the Training Coordinator gets to Attend a Training

So for the first time since I joined the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy back in November, I have the exciting opportunity to attend a professional training to help me better in my role. As Training Coordinator, I am that guy behind the scenes making sure location reservations are confirmed, that lunch has been ordered, and attendees get the correct CEUs for their time.

I get to select the topics of the trainings, recruit the trainers, and I work really hard to try and ensure that the trainings offered by the SC Campaign are diverse, varied, and located in various parts of the state to make them as accessible as possible. So imagine my excitement when I get to sit down for 2 days in Atlanta and be trained from national experts on the current trends related to our work in Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Yes this is work, but it is nice to let someone else work on logistics while I enjoy time learning.

This week I am attending the regional training entitled "Planning, Piloting, Prevention: Teenage Pregnancy Prevention for the Next Generation" presented by the Office of Adolescent Health and The Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). This conference is particularly important because of my work with both of our Federal Grant projects - the community engagement work in Horry & Spartanburg counties as well as our Tier 1 project with Middle Schools across the state. All of these projects will require the SC Campaign to offer special trainings in the year ahead so I and the fantastic Training staff that works with me, will be sure that our trainings are tailored to meet the unique needs of these projects.

Tuesday morning, the opening session was on Adolescent Sexual Development which asked us the question "What's the new normal?" Youth today come from varied races, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, and regions of our state. It is important to understand what are the trends these youth face and what are some of their unique needs that we should keep in mind as we work with them.

Also we heard from Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder who is the Executive Director of ANSWER. (side note: did you know that any teacher in SC can receive free on-line professional development courses through Answer and the Department of Education? Contact me for more info about who is eligiable for this great opportunity). Anyways, Dr. Schroeder's second session was extremely enlightening. We discussed commonly held myths and frequently asked questions that teens have about sex based on questions that are sent to Answer. No, doing jumping jacks after sex will not prevent pregnancy. It was a challenge to all of us to be sure we are dispelling these myths.

Tuesday afternoon sessions were about Managing the Digital Media Monster - do not let technology scare you! Embrace it and all the potential opportunities that social media and texting can provide to reach teens where they are and in ways they communicate with their peers. Facebook is a great medium to reaching teens - in case you did not know that.

The other great part of this trip so far, has been the chance to meet partners from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, Answer by Rutgars, and SIECUS, as well as local agencies around the region. Even though I love to travel, I can not wait to return to SC and start working on some of the things we have learned already.

Ryan Wilson is Training Coordinator for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ripple Effect

The statistics are so well known. Teen childbearing tends to follow a family cycle. Children born to teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, serve time incarcerated. They are also more likely to have a child early in life. It is a vicious cycle that we have to break—and it will take every part of our society to do so.

But recently I was reminded of the other side.

Many years ago I returned from a meeting of the SC Campaign. At supper that evening we were discussing the meeting when suddenly our youngest daughter, who was about 8 at the time, let out a heavy sigh and said, “Sex, Sex, Sex! Can’t we talk about something else!” (And yes, I am a Baptist minister!)

Because of my involvement with the SC Campaign, sex was a common dinnertime conversation. My daughters heard us discussing the reasons teens shouldn’t be engaged in risky behaviors, of our hope for their lives, for the values that informed the choices we had made. They even heard about birth control and how we hoped they would make good and intelligent choices. It was just one of the things we talked about.

And it has rippled!

The other week our oldest daughter was home. She is now married and teaching in an inner city charter school. It is a different world from the one in which she grew up. Recently a young man was misbehaving in her class and so they went out in to the hall to talk.

“You can’t be acting this way in my class,” she said.
“But I have stuff going on. I’ve got babies on the way!” he said.
“No! I got 2 babies coming with different girls!”
This young man is 17.

Another young man had missed an entire week of school. When he came in to see about making up his work he informed her that he had been out the previous week because it was his “week to take care of the baby.” He and the mother were alternating weeks while the other went to school.

As my daughter was telling me these stories I wondered about the ripple effects again. What about this young man who had been irresponsible and now was facing multiple fatherhood? What about this young couple who were trying to juggle school and childcare and growing up?

When we think about teen pregnancy we often focus on the hard statistics, but what about the good ones? I had to wonder about those dinner conversations we had, and how they were now rippling across our country to a high school where a young teacher was a safe place, where she might help intervene to break this cycle. I wonder about the conversations that parents have as they watch “Glee;” as they make their way home from church; as they talk about values and beliefs and reasons why decisions are made.

Those conversations have a ripple effect too! Oh, they will never show up on stat sheet—but they make all the difference in the world. They show up in a classroom teacher, in a college student.

Those are the ripples we need to be producing. So toss a pebble into the pond. Who knows where it might lead!

It might just change a life!

By Don Flowers, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board Member and Reverend at Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting out of the Office

One of the best parts of my job here at the SC Campaign is being able to get out of the office and meet dedicated teen pregnancy prevention professionals across the state.  And, as someone who loves to eat, having a chance to visit some wonderful restaurants, quaint cafes, and little diners makes the experience even better.  

So, today, I am going to take a break from my “real” role in research and evaluation and talk about some great places I’ve been able to visit. South Carolina is full of historic small towns and locally owned cafes and restaurants. Below are a few of my favorites*:

Sumter: Whenever visiting Sumter to meet with some of our wonderful partners at Sumter Family Health or the United Way Diamonds program or the Sumter SCOOP coalition, we always make a point to stop at Baker's Sweets for amazing cappuccinos, muffins, or a lemon bar.  Since it’s on the way into downtown, we have been known to visit twice in one day!

Hampton County:  On our way to meet Shedron Williams at Access Network, we stopped for tea and cookies in the charming historic downtown area at Julienn's Espresso Cafe.  The inside is exposed brick and has an array of sweets and lunch items.  It’s a pleasant spot to rest after walking around the downtown area.
Cheraw: After visiting the Chesterfield County Coordinating Council, we stopped for lunch at the Rivers Edge Restaurant .  This is a fantastic restaurant that serves simple, delicious food and a staggering array of desserts!  And, they bake their own bread which you can bring home with you and you can buy a handmade quilt on display in the spacious dining room.  The restaurant is also located on a quaint main street in downtown Cheraw.

Conway: Last year when visiting the Horry County Adult Education program, I heard about the Trestle Bakery .  Located on the main drag of Conway in a lovely old store front, it has great coffee (which was nice after a 2 ½ hour drive from Columbia) and an amazing cinnamon roll I still think about!  Luckily for other staff at the SC Campaign, we’ll be spending a lot of time in Horry County over the next five years as part of our intensive community efforts in Horry County

Spartanburg: We have been working closely with the Spartanburg community for a few years and will continue to have intensive community efforts in Spartanburg County.  There are many restaurants in the charming downtown Spartanburg area, but a favorite is: Lime Leaf. At the Hub City Bookshop, you can visit two great little eateries: the Cakehead Bakeshop and the Little River Coffee Bar.

Where else have you been that you’d love someone else to try?  

*The SC Campaign does not have any relationship with any of the restaurants mentioned in this blog and does not endorse any private business. 

By Shannon Flynn, Director of Research and Evaluation

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Community Working for Change is Necessary Around Issue of Teen Pregnancy

My new favorite book is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.  It has been a guide book for me in my work over the past couple of years mobilizing a community around the issue of teen pregnancy.
Filled with great nuggets of wisdom on leadership and creating change, one piece that has most recently caught my attention is this: “if you want to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

While perhaps not laid out as eloquently as in Gladwell’s description, this is the definition we have been utilizing at the SC Campaign when talking about a community-wide initiative for teen pregnancy prevention. We know that to ultimately change young people’s beliefs and behaviors around sex, behaviors that would remain consistent over the long-term and set an example for the next generation of young people to follow, we must create a community around them that supports those beliefs and behaviors.

We need an entire community to be engaged in teen pregnancy prevention to be successful. Our five strategic goals are dedicated to identifying the various segments of the community that have the greatest roles to play.

Young people need parents and other trusted adults having real, open, honest conversations with them about relationships, love and sex. They need school administrators, Board members, and teachers committed to filling their heads with factual information related to sexual health so they can make informed decisions. They need youth serving agencies that will implement high quality programs unique to their needs. They need businessmen and women dedicated to making sure they have access to contraception if they choose to have sex. They need doctors and nurses who will ask questions and talk openly about sex, risks, and methods of protection without judgment.

We also know that young people need faith leaders who will fill their souls with a greater understanding of what real love is so they can make choices based on who they were created to be. They need legislators and elected officials who will develop and institute policies that will address their needs and protect them from those who would give them less than they deserve. They need people to give financial resources to organizations that work with them each day to give them the best quality programs and services.  They need peers who will be willing to stand up and speak out even if it means not being “cool” in the eyes of others.

With new funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ten communities in nine states have the support to really push for that level of community change. I am fortunate to be involved in mobilizing one of those communities. We are engaging and partnering with people from all segments of the community. We deliver the message again and again to as many as will hear it until it finally “sticks” and people are moved to action.

We are collaborating with incredible leaders from across the community – individuals Gladwell would call “exceptional.” And we’re making progress. We’re nearing our own tipping point and understanding what community engagement can really mean for our young people.

I encourage you to be exceptional – to get out of the mindset of business as usual and engage your community in your work. If it takes a village to raise a child, then isn’t it time we got the village on board? In Gladwell’s words, “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

By: Dana Becker, Technical Assistance Specialist for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Love and Basketball

It’s March and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for me to get really, really, really excited about college basketball. After all, there are two things that dominate conversations in my world… basketball and reproductive health.

An odd mixture of conversations for sure, but today the two issues collided and I am therefore compelled to blog about them, together. Those of you who are not die hard college basketball fans like me may have missed the news coming out of Povo, Utah today. Brigham Young University (BYU) is having an absolutely remarkable basketball season and has been ranked as high as #3 nationally… yes, BYU! But, this post isn’t about the team’s unprecedented basketball prowess, rather about the university’s honor code. News broke today that one of the team’s star players had been suspended for the rest of the season. Pat Forde of ESPN broke down the situation like this:

“Key player on probably the best team in school history gets in trouble in the final week of a 27-2 season. With a Mountain West Conference title and a probable No. 1 NCAA tournament seed there for the taking, the school learns of an honor code violation on Monday, a violation that school officials said was not a criminal offense. On Tuesday, Davies is suspended for the rest of the season.”

That report from ESPN was before we learned that the violation was… wait for it… wait for it… young Mr. Davies was busted having premarital sex with his girlfriend! Yikes! Are you serious?

So here we go, let the debate begin. Was the suspension justified? Was it too harsh? The kid’s a sophomore in college, what’s the big deal? It will make for interesting dialogue on the sports blogs for sure, but here’s the deal: BYU has a standard, an honor code, and expectation of its students. Davies didn’t live up to that standard and he was dismissed from the team. He knew the expectations, was well aware of the code and chose to violate it.

What if we all held young people to a standard and let them know there were associated consequences? What if conversations about love, sex and relationships included our young men at the same level they target young women? What if all young men, especially young male athletes, knew they weren’t exempt from the rules? What if…

By the way, as I write this post BYU is well on their way to losing a basketball game tonight (their first post suspension) ostensibly crashing their dream season. But, tonight’s lesson is about much more than wins and losses on the court. It’s about expectations for our young people, and a reminder that indeed we can have them!! What if…