Remember that day when you were so busy you fell asleep in your work clothes? You woke up and said “If only I had an extra day to get [insert task] done.” Ok, those may have not been your exact words. Maybe you asked for a personal assistant, housekeeper or an extra set of arms. Good news! You can abandon your design for the housekeeping robot. Leap day is here! It’s that gift we get every four years: an extra day! Think of all the things you can do with an extra day!
What will I do with this extra day? I’d like to tell you I have a hot air balloon ride with a seaside picnic planned, but I don’t. I’ll start my leap day with my usual Wednesday morning yoga class followed by a rewarding day working with some of the smartest people I know. My day will wrap with dinner beside my significant other with our dogs at our feet. Although this sounds strikingly similar to other Wednesdays in my life, I will do something that I often forget to do: pause. I will stop and take a moment to reflect on the last four years. I’ll spend time reflecting and remember to send a thank you skyward for all that I have been blessed with these past four years.
I know I shouldn’t state the obvious, but: a lot can happen in four years. My life has certainly changed since 2008. Take a moment to reflect on your last four years. What has happened to you since 2008? I hope that you were able to check a few items off your list of goals. Can you think of any event(s) that forced you to put one of those goals on hold or something that changed your path? Now take a moment to think about another set of four years: high school. How do you remember your high school days? When I think about high school, I remember feeling unsure of myself and being concerned about what my peers thought about me. I also remember being carefree and staying up so late I saw the sunrise. Now think about what a pregnancy in your teen years would have done to your path. Would you be where you are today?
Every day in South Carolina, nineteen teenagers give birth1. For those nineteen teenagers, their lives have changed in the most significant way possible. They’ve been thrown into the adult world whether they were ready or not. For those teens who had not yet graduate high school, their four year path to a diploma has been compromised. Parenthood is the leading cause for teenage girls to drop out of high school2. In South Carolina, nearly one in five (19%) 8th graders will not make it to the 12th grade in four years3. As a native, I take pride in my state. The fact that almost a quarter of teens in my home state are not able to graduate from high school in four years makes me uneasy, but further empowers the work that I do.
It is my hope that all teenagers are given the opportunity to achieve all of their goals. As adults who have been in their shoes, it is our responsibility to educate them and be good role models. Show teens how bright their future is and how important it is that they succeed. On the next leap day in 2016, it is my wish that the teens of today will pause and reflect on their accomplishments. I want those teens, who may no longer be teens, to smile that same proud smile you have when you look back on your last four years. Not only do I want for them to see a clear path to their future, but my wish is that they will look over their shoulder to see the path they have cleared and the obstacles they have overcome to get where they choose to be.
Take the gift of this leap day and reflect on your last four years. Celebrate your accomplishments. Make plans for your future. Remember to take a moment to reflect. Continue your hard work and dedication to our future generations and continue to give yourself time to pause.
- Jordan Slice is a Research and Evaluation Assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Jordan at email@example.com.
1South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Teen Pregnancy in South Carolina. Retrieved February 2012 from http://www.teenpregnancysc.org/uploads/2012%20Teen%20Pregnancy%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.
2National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Why It Matters: Teen Pregnancy and Education. Retrieved February 2012 from http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters/pdf/education.pdf.
3Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center. Profile for South Carolina. Retrieved February 2012 from http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/stateprofile.aspx?state=SC&loc=42.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I have a weakness for reality TV. I’m not proud to admit it, but I do, so it’s unsurprising that as I was flipping through channels recently, I got sucked into a new reality series called “Big Rich Texas.”
The thing I immediately loved about Big Rich Texas is that these ladies are Southern. Sure, the Texans are catty and rich, as any reality TV star must be, but they also pride themselves in being demure and proper. It’s the “proper” aspect that made for the interesting episode I saw the other night.
Melissa picked her 15 year old daughter Maddie up from a doctor’s appointment and noticed she was holding a brown paper bag. She asked Maddie what the doctor had given her, and Maddie reluctantly held up a birth control pack. Then Melissa grabbed the bag and discovered the bag also contained a bunch of condoms. She immediately yelled, “Are you having sex?!” but seemed to calm down after Maddie promised she wasn’t.
Later that night, Maddie and her 15 year old friend Grace were getting ready for a big soiree at the country club, when Maddie showed Grace the condoms. Y’all, this was my favorite part! Maddie and Grace decided to open a condom, and they reacted exactly the way you would hope two 15 year olds would react. They started shrieking about how slimy they were. Then they tried to fling them at each other, until they started screaming after one stuck to the bathroom mirror.
The trouble started when Maddie decided to give Grace some condoms, and Grace’s mother, Connie, found them in her purse during the country club event. To put it lightly, Connie did not react well. She yelled at Grace, immediately confronted Maddie’s mother Melissa, and made Grace leave the party early.
I’m not a parent, so I’m automatically not very qualified to judge Connie’s reaction. I realize that even though it seemed extreme to me, you really don’t know what it’s like to find condoms in your 15 year old daughter’s purse until you’re living that situation. I would probably freak out too. I do hope, however, that Connie had a chance to watch the footage of Grace and Maddie playing with the condoms and realize how innocent they actually are. Unfortunately, there are too many 15 year olds in South Carolina who wouldn’t have been fazed by the condoms, because they’re already having sex. Grace carrying them around in her purse “just because” doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.
I think sometimes our “properness” gets us in trouble in the South. Maybe if we were more willing to talk openly about these things, teens wouldn’t be so eager to have sex, and there wouldn’t be so many teens having sex at the young age of 15. It’s also important to remember that talking about sex does not mean we’re encouraging teens to do it, or conveying that it’s ok. It just means we’re answering their questions and eliminating their curiosity, which leaves one less reason for them to have sex before they’re ready, or to be unsafe when they are.
-- Lauren Angelo is a Graduate Assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and a MPH student at the University of South Carolina. Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org