Monday, December 23, 2013

Recipes from Our Family to Yours

So, your teen is home for the holidays and expects you to be his or her social planner. You hear constant complaints of "Mom, I'm bored!" or "Dad, there's nothing to do around here!" I am all too familiar with this type of whining, because I was a master complainer growing up. What are some activities you can suggest to your teen to help with those boredom blues that may be a little more exciting than doing chores, reading a book (always my grandmother's suggestion) or staring at the wall and hoping that something fun just happens on its own? My suggestion: spend time in the kitchen! Cooking or baking with your teen is a great way to bond and start conversations about love, sex, and relationships. It may go a little like this...

Mom/Dad: Hey Suzie, can you measure two cups of flour and slowly add it to the mixer?

Suzie: Sure! Do I add the vanilla before or after?

Mom/Dad: After. By the way, your friend Johnnie seems nice and you two seem to really get along.

Suzie: Well....yeah, I really like him. I hope he asks me to be his girlfriend soon.

Mom/Dad: How exciting! But before you two get too serious, there are some things we should talk about...


Spending time with your teen while doing a low-stress activity like cooking or baking can create a comfortable, positive environment for sometimes-awkward or difficult conversations. These conversations should be open, often, and ongoing to ensure that your teen is comfortable coming to you about sensitive topics like love, sex, and relationships. For more ideas on how to start the conversation with your teen, click here. 

As a gift to you and your family, the SC Campaign has compiled some of our favorite holiday recipes. We hope you and your family will enjoy making and eating these treats!

CANDY FRUIT - from Beth DeHart
(This recipe is for strawberries. You can substitute the strawberry Jello with orange, lemon, blueberry, or any other fruit flavor you like, and shape the candies into the shape of that fruit.)

1 cup, very fine coconut
3 pkg. (3 oz. each) strawberry Jello
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 sm. pkg. almond slivers, for stems; you can also use green icing
1 cup ground pecans
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1.  Mix all of the above ingredients thoroughly (EXCEPT for one of the Jello packages.)
2.  Chill for 1 hour.
3.  Shape into strawberries (or whatever fruit flavor you choose.)
4.  Roll each strawberry in the remaining Jello. This gives the ‘fruit’ a more matte look, and helps keep them from being super sticky on your fingers.
5.  Insert a green tinted sliver of almond for stem. To make the green almond, add a few drops of green food coloring to the almonds in a jar and shake. Note: you can also just use green icing for the leaves.

These can be made ahead and frozen. They freeze exceptionally well and are very decorative for dessert trays. If you make several different ‘fruits,’ they can make a beautiful candy fruit tray!

MELOMAKARONA (Greek Christmas Walnut Honey Cookies) - from Eleni Gavrilis

For the cookies:
1 cup olive oil
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of one orange
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brandy
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup walnuts, ground coarsely
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 whole cloves
1-2-inch piece lemon rind
1 tsp. lemon juice

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a small bowl, using your fingers, combine the orange zest with the sugar – rubbing the grains as if you were playing with sand to release the orange oils into the sugar.
3.  Using an electric mixer, beat the oil with the orange sugar until well mixed. In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4.  Add the orange juice and brandy to mixer and mix well.
5.  Slowly incorporate the flour cup by cup until the mixture forms a dough that is not too loose but not quite firm either. It will be dense and wet but not sticky. Once the flour is incorporated fully stop mixing.
6.  To roll cookies, pinch a portion of dough off about the size of a walnut. Shape in your palms into a smooth oblong shape, almost like a small egg. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Shape and roll cookies until the sheet is filled.
7.  Press the tines of a large fork in a crosshatch pattern in the center of each cookie. This will flatten them slightly in the center. The cookies should resemble lightly flattened ovals when they go in the oven.
8.  Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until lightly browned. (The cookies will darken when submerged in syrup.)
9.  While the cookies are baking, prepare the syrup.
10. In a saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, water, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon rind. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon, cloves, and lemon rind and stir in lemon juice.
11. Place the ground walnuts in a shallow plate or bowl next to the stove top. When the cookies come out of the oven and while they are still very warm, carefully float the cookies in the syrup and allow the cookies to absorb syrup on both sides.
12. Using a fork or small spatula, remove the cookie from the syrup and place on a platter or plate. Press ground walnuts lightly into the tops of the cookies (syrup will help it adhere) and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon.
13. Do not refrigerate as they will harden. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


12 ounces butterscotch chips
3 tablespoons peanut butter
5 ounces chow mein noodles

1.  Melt chips and peanut butter in microwave (about 2 minutes in mine, stir halfway through).
2.  Stir in chow mein noodles and drop onto wax paper (a heaping tablespoon per haystack).

Yields 2 dozen muffins

4 oz white country bread torn into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper
2 tble unsalted butter
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 finely chopped celery
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
6 garlic gloves, finely chopped
3/4 tsp dried sage
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tble chicken broth

1.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease two 12 cup mini-muffin pans with cooking spray.
2.  On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tble spoons of the oil; season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 10 minutes, until toasted.  Transfer the croutons to a bowl.
3.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter in the remaining oil.  Add the onion and celery and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage, garlic, sage and cook, breaking up the sausage until no trace of pink remains, 5 minutes.  Mix the sausage, apple, eggs and broth into the croutons; season with salt and pepper.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
4.  Pack the stuffing into the muffin cups and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden.  Transfer to a rack and let stand for 5 minutes.  Loosen the muffins with a sharp paring knife and lift them out.  Serve warm.

TORTILLA LASAGNA - from Jordan Slice

6 8-inch fat-free flour tortillas
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. ancho chile powder
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
2 cups strained tomatoes, such as Pomì, divided
1 ½ cups cooked black beans, or 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium chayote, peeled and diced, or 2 medium zucchini, diced (1½ cups)
½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast tortillas on 2 baking sheets in oven 5 minutes, or until light brown, turning once.
2.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in chili powder, ancho chile powder, and garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add 11/2 cups strained tomatoes, beans, chayote, corn, and 1/2 cup water, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, and cook 10 minutes, or until chayote is tender.
3.  Coat 2-inch-deep x 8-inch round baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/4 cup strained tomatoes in bottom of pan. Set 1 toasted tortilla in pan; top with 3/4 cup bean mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering 4 more times. Top with last tortilla, and spread remaining 1/4 cup strained tomatoes over top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and cheese has melted. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into 8 wedges.

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Teen Pregnancy Prevention Means to Me…Now

Before I became the Health Communications Assistant at the SC Campaign, I lived in blissful ignorance of the teen pregnancy issue in South Carolina. I didn't know South Carolina was ranked 11th in the nation for teen pregnancy. I had no idea that only 38 percent of teen mothers graduate high school. My introduction to teen pregnancy came with cold, hard facts, and the harsh reality that we have a lot of work to do in SC. It’s not like I was never exposed to teen pregnancy; several girls in my high school class walked across the stage pregnant to accept their diplomas. In passing, my thoughts were, “Well, at least they’re graduating,” not realizing that those occurrences are anomalies throughout the state.  I didn't care too much about teen pregnancy because it didn’t affect me directly. Ranked 11th in the nation. 38 percent graduation rate. $197 million. Numbers always have a way of grabbing your attention.

Reaching teens in South Carolina requires someone who is able to have a real talk while giving straight answers. As a nation, we are well on our way in doing just that. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that the national teen birth rate has dropped an astonishing 52 percent since peaking in the early 1990s. That’s a leap in the right direction, but we have more work to do. Teen pregnancy isn't something that the state of SC can afford to be complacent about or afford for that matter. In 2008, SC tax payers spent $197 million on costs associated with teen pregnancy.  From an economical stand point, that’s $197 million reasons to get our house in order.  Teen pregnancy isn’t an issue that I acknowledge with vague recognition now. I don’t care about engaging teens because it is my job, I care about it because we need to continue making headway with this issue. The numbers opened my eyes, and if 2013 is any indication, we are moving in the right direction.

by Shana Adams, Health Communications Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Learning about Love, Sex, and Relationships at Church

At the SC Campaign, we focus on different types of people who have an impact on teens.  Lately I have been working on a flyer for faith leaders with information on preventing teen pregnancy.  This is close to my heart because I got all of my information about sex and relationships from the people at my church.

My parents didn't really talk about sex; my dad mostly just said that if I got pregnant it would ruin his retirement.  As I got older, it started to be a common issue among my friends.  Since my parents weren't talking about it, I wasn't sure which way was up.

My youth group had an entire series on sex and Biblically based relationships.  We were all divided up into small groups and we each had a leader who went through everything with us.  I remember thinking it was awkward at the time, but looking back on it – I know it impacted me a great deal.  Our leaders shared personal stories with us that helped us see the importance of having healthy relationships.

The series lasted for a couple of weeks, and from what I can remember, we had different leaders talk to us about sex during a particular week.  I remember one lady, who had been a teen mom, was open and honest, telling us exactly how she got into the situation.  On the other hand, I also remember my great aunt telling us to think about her if we ever wanted to have unprotected sex.  This was obviously a joke, but I knew that if she took the time to talk to us about it she obviously knew what was best for us.

Having many different women talk to me about sex was important.  The lady who was a teen mom was relatable and although I only remember my great aunt making a joke- it still had a great impact on me.  The main thing was that these women took time to talk to me about sex, and had they not, I wouldn't have known the importance of a healthy relationship.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Being a College Student in the Real World

Just recently, I had group facilitation on conflict resolution.  During our class discussion, one of my peers said that they sometimes feel as if they cannot voice their opinions in certain settings (i.e. at their field placements), because of their age and job title.  I never stopped to think how much of an influence age and the people surrounding me affects the way I decide to handle things.  I then asked a few older family members and friends if they would be inclined to speak up about something they feel passionate about in their work settings, and to my surprise, age does not always bring self confidence in work settings.

I was tested that very same day on what I would do if I felt very passionate about a situation that dealt with work.  At my part-time job, an email was sent out earlier in the week for everyone to pick their hours to work during winter break.  The hours are on a first-come, first-serve basis; however, I did not find out about this winter break schedule until I went in to work on Wednesday and saw it sitting at the desk waiting to be filled out.  I just filled out the schedule with the hours I wanted to work.  The next day I got a message from a coworker about another email that was sent with an updated desk schedule and a reminder that it is best to email our supervisor the hours we want instead of writing them on the schedule.  When I opened the attachment with the schedule, most of the hours I signed up for were taken due to the email system he had in place as opposed to just signing up at the desk.  Of course I was not the only person that signed up with the desk schedule only, but I was the only person that did not receive the email.  So I had to sit back and think if this was “a ditch I was willing to die in” (as a past professor always stated) or to just let things go.  Being the person I am (not to mention a social worker), I get very passionate about some things and sometimes don’t even stop to think what could happen before acting or reacting.  But this time, I did take a minute to think of a few different angles and conclusions before I responded.  I was very calm in my email response and pointed out the flaws in this sign-up system. I felt it was clear to me, as it was to a few of my coworkers, that things were done unfairly and there should have been only one way to sign up for desk hours instead of two and everyone should have been included on the email.  I also gave a suggestion to start the scheduling over, although, my suggestion was not taken.

I believe that it shouldn't matter what your age or title is, you should be able to voice your opinions and concerns in any setting. There will always be some level of conflict in the workplace, but managing that conflict by making sure you are not creating bigger problems can always bring some kind of resolution.  The results will not always be in your favor but at least you would be able to say you tried and stood up for yourself.   As it’s said, “conflict can be good; it means you’re getting closer to a solution.”

by Edwina Mack, USC Master of Social Work Field Placement Student, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday in a New Light

As you all probably know, this past Friday was Black Friday. You know, the day after Thanksgiving where all the retail stores have crazy door-buster deals and people stand outside at midnight waiting to get them. It always amazes me how much people prepare and plan for this one special day.  Men and women across the country research the best deals and create a game plan, so that on Black Friday they can execute it and walk away with the best deals. As I think about the tradition of Black Friday and how families prepare for this one day of savings, it made me reflect on why people, including our young people today, do not think about family planning in the same light as they do Black Friday.

Just like Black Friday deals, our young people need to think about the best plan for their lives and decide when is the best time to begin a family.  According to the World Health Organization, family planning allows individuals to attain their desired number of children by selecting the timing and spacing of birth.  This is achieved through the use of contraceptive methods, and research shows that family planning significantly impacts the overall health and well-being of women.  With this in mind, I believe individuals should devote as much energy and effort into family planning as they do into finding the best deals for Black Friday.  While it is true that you may save a boat-load of money on Black Friday, family planning can save you even more money over your lifetime.  In South Carolina alone, teen pregnancy costs taxpayers about $200 million annually.  Imagine how much taxpayers can save if individuals think about family planning as much as they think about Black Friday deals. After all, are you really going to want that argyle sweater next year?  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Landen’s Thankful Again…

It’s that time of year when, even though we are/should be thankful year round, we make sure to put more emphasis on our blessings. Last year I blogged about my failed attempt at being philosophical with my then 3 year old regarding his thankfulness.  Our attempt at deep conversation resulted in his passionate testimony about having Spiderman in his life!  Fast forward to this year and my now-4-year-old Landen is definitely thankful for more than Spiderman.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a large Spiderman picture ready to mount in his room as we speak, and he slept in his Spiderman PJs just last night.  But one interesting thing happened this year…he came to me with hugs, kisses and the longest list of “things he was thankful for” ever!  I am sure this was part of his school project, but I have been pretending that this is a natural progression for my very opinionated and sometimes not-so-behaved preschooler!  Just to name a few, Landen is thankful for:  his family (which includes an imaginary sister who we are to have next year), his friends, soccer, hot chocolate, his house, the toilet, windows, walls, floors, TVs, books, shoes, clothes and almost everything in the house, our dog Major (that I need to personally go tell how much I appreciate), the trees, the road in front of our house, and the list goes on and on. I was so excited about his enthusiasm that I almost took for granted exactly what he was saying.  Any parent can understand how easy, with all that consumes our lives daily, it is to consider this inconvenient rambling OR manipulating to get good Christmas gifts.  And, of course, these possibilities are not far-fetched.  However, no matter what prompted Landen’s long Thanksgiving list, I am touched by the innocence, simplicity, and straightforwardness that children have.

We should take time to really think about what we have and how, no matter how hard times seem, there are always others who need support – and not just during the holiday season.  Last year, in the same blog I mentioned above, I also talked about being without both parents for the first time. Landen’s long list of blessings and our simple, sweet times together so far this season - drinking hot chocolate and watching holiday movies, for instance - have reminded me of the importance of family, friends, sharing, and helping others.  Take some time and cherish your long list of blessings – even if it’s prompted by a preschooler!

by Kimberly Wicker, Outreach and Development Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lessons Learned From a New Knee

This Thanksgiving my family has a lot to be thankful for: we've got a new knee at the table! After a long battle of fighting through the pain, my grandpa underwent knee replacement surgery a few weeks ago.

After spending a few days in the hospital, he’s been recovering at a rehabilitation center near his house. He’s being released TODAY – just in time for Thanksgiving!

In preparation for his homecoming (and our annual Thanksgiving family gathering), we've invited more family than their house can probably safely hold. We've coordinated the menu, we’re working on seating arrangements, and starting Wednesday morning – we’re cooking!

It’s hard watching the people you love get older, but it certainly cements the importance of spending time together. My grandpa’s new knee is teaching me a lot about family. Visiting my grandpa in the rehabilitation center these last few weeks made me realize that it’s not how much time you spend with family that’s important – what’s important is spending time connecting with and supporting the ones you love.

His new knee is giving me even more opportunities to witness what a strong partnership really looks like.

Through my grandfather’s process of recovery, my grandmother has been a serious trooper. She’s stuck by my grandpa’s side – paying close attention during his physical therapy sessions and picking up on activities they can do at home to improve their memory. Having a partner who picks you up when you’re down, who not only stands by your side, but finds every opportunity possible to support you and encourage you is the best thing anyone could hope for. My sister and I are so lucky to have my grandparents as such great role models for what a strong partnership looks like.

This year I’m thankful for my grandpa’s new knee and all the lessons it has taught me these past few weeks.

I’m thankful that we get to spend Thanksgiving lunch like we always do – warm and cozy in my grandparents’ living room building memories together.

by Jordan Slice, Research and Evaluation Associate, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rethink Your Tailgate Checklist

I’m often struck by the hustle and bustle that comes along with a fall Friday in Columbia.  I’m well aware that games are played on Saturday, but going through the pre-game checklist of fandom begins on Friday (if not well before).

First to the grocery store… $100 + on food and libations for the tailgate… check!

Then we get our parking situation in order… $40… check!

Tickets.  What about tickets?  $100 for 2 on Stub Hub (if you’re lucky)… check!

So, let’s call it $250 before we get to the game.  That’s assuming that your unwashed-for-six-weeks, faded, lucky t-shirt doesn’t yet need to be replaced.  That’s also assuming you don’t spend any additional money at the game.

I get it, I really do.  I’m as hardcore a fan as anyone out there – and attending sporting events is what most, if not all, of the “extra” finances are dedicated to.  But, recently I’ve wondered, what if an equivalent financial contribution went to the organizations and charities that I care most about?  Would I be willing to donate an equal amount to that which I spend on entertainment (let’s be honest, that’s what it is) to a nonprofit in our state?

This week, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.  And I wonder if you will join me.

I’m not even saying the contribution has to go to the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (although it would be awesome if that was your choice); rather my challenge to you is more global… pick a nonprofit you care about this week and make an investment in them!!

Then, hurry up and get those tickets for Clemson vs. Carolina… I hear they are going fast!

Want to invest in South Carolina youth? Click here!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Reason I Love (and Hate) My Job

There’s a little good and bad in almost everything, and my job is no exception. As the Community Mobilization Coordinator for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, my job duties cover a wide range of activities from training and presentations to planning events. My favorite part of the job is advising the Youth Action Board – a team of about 13, ages 14-20, who is committed to decreasing teen birth rates in Spartanburg County. Separate from my job, I also work with youth in my church, primarily 10th and 11th grade young ladies. I love working with teens because they are passionate, energetic, creative, optimistic (usually ☺), excited, overwhelming, slightly selfish, definitely challenging whirlwinds of noise and movement. While there isn’t enough money in the world for me to go back and do my teen years over again, to spend time with young people at a stage in my life when I’m okay with being me and not overly eager to impress is pretty cool. I’m able to be genuine, and they respond well to that.

So while I love spending time being a part of the lives of young people, there are times when I also hate it. Sometimes I hate how they stretch me – pushing me to be better today than I was yesterday because they so desperately need to be around adults who walk their walk, talk their talk, and live with integrity. I hate how quickly their pain becomes my own – when they are abused or mistreated or broken-hearted. While I want so much just to promise them that things will get better, that this feeling will pass, that those bullies won’t matter to them in the years to come, I know that for them every minute of every day feels like a mountain to climb. They just need me to listen – not advise. I hate how I sometimes go home and cry because I see the pain in their eyes, their heads hung in unnecessary shame with hair hanging down to hide whatever mix of emotions they’re feeling, but I can’t fix things for them or make it all go away. I hate how needy they can be and how demanding at times because they know I am the adult they can trust – who will be there. I hate how easily they can be torn down and how much it means to them for me to deliver one word of praise. I hate how they can’t see how incredible they are – how much they have to offer the world from their heads and from their hearts. I hate how easily they allow someone else to make them feel worthless when they are clearly worthy of so much. I hate how life experiences beyond their control – often things adults have done to or around them – have caused them to live outside the margins where it’s easier to just shrink away than to fight to make things better.

Ironically, the things I hate most about my job are the things that make me good at my job.  In fact, they are things that make me a better human being. Just when I think I’ve emptied my proverbial cup working with young people, I find it to be overflowing because they’ve poured so much more into me. In the process of encouraging them, I have been encouraged. Because when I am most vulnerable, when I am giving 100% of myself, when I am fully invested in the lives of others – that is when I am truly able to make a difference. So even when it’s hard, I will continue to be there for our youth because they need me. They need you, too.

by Dana Becker, Community Mobilization Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Horry County Youth Pastor Discusses How to Talk to Youth About Teen Pregnancy

Reverend Wallace Evans Jr., Chesterfield Missionary Baptist Church Youth Pastor and Executive Director of A Father's Place, Horry County's father engagement initiative, appeared on WMBF News (Myrtle Beach, SC) on Thursday, Nov. 12 to speak about the importance of open, ongoing conversation between youth and their parents or trusted adults.

90% of South Carolina parents say they talk to their youth about love, sex, and relationships, but only 64% teens say they are having these conversations. So where is the disconnect?

"I think part of the issue is parents are waiting to have the one right talk, and it ends up happening too late." said Rev. Evans. "Parents are not having that ongoing dialogue...they are not building that foundation of good, solid communication." 

Click on the image below to view the interview.

For more information on how to talk to youth about love, sex, and relationships, visit our Parent Portal.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Today is The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s #ThxBirthControl day! So what does that mean?  According to a recent survey, 55 percent of sexually active women ages 18-22 would be more comfortable using birth control if more people talked about it in a positive way. So today The National Campaign is asking everyone to post messages on their social media accounts using the hashtag #ThxBirthControl.

The ability to plan when they want to have a family has helped so many awesome women I know succeed and reach their goals. I know doctors, lawyers, marketers, singer/songwriters, mothers, bankers, and engineers who are out there living their dreams.

Check out the SC Campaign's video here!

Need some help coming up with your tweets and posts? We've got your covered! Share these!

SC teen birth rates decreased 47% in the last 20 years. Thanks abstinence and #thxbirthcontrol. @sccampaign @thenc

95% of South Carolinians want more efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. Let's all say #thxbirthcontrol. @sccampaign

Teen birth rates have reached an all time low in South Carolina. Thanks abstinence and #thxbirthcontrol. @sccampaign

Progress made in reducing teen pregnancy saves SC taxpayers about $127 million per year. #thxbirthcontrol @sccampaign

78% of South Carolinians agree making contraception available will help reduce rates of teen pregnancy.  #thxbirthcontrol @sccampaign @thenc

84% of SC residents think school based sex ed should include abstinence AND contraception.  #thnxbirthcontrol

So say it with us: Thanks, Birth Control! #ThxBirthControl. 

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Through the Tween Years and Beyond

My stepson turns 10 this December, and I’m slightly worried.  In three years he’ll morph into a teenager! We don’t always feed him nutritious meals, get him to complete weekly chores or take a shower without prompting, so I wonder: have we given him the tools to make his way in the world and eventually survive on his own?
My stepson and me, September 2012

About a hundred years ago, he might be a well-seasoned factory worker or farmer by now!  Thanks to the Keating-Owens Act of 1916, he is not, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re preparing him enough.  His current loves include trading Pokémon cards, riding his scooter, and playing video games like Minecraft.  He draws and writes his own comics with his friends and is generally upbeat, but how long will he stay this way?

Some of my loneliest, most uncomfortable years took place during middle school.  I felt so out of place.  As it turns out, so did most kids.  That’s because the tweenage years are when you start to find yourself.  You start becoming aware of what it takes to fit in and how much you want to.

On my journey, I shaved the hair beneath my ponytail and dyed my hair with Kool-Aid and Sun-In.  I wore fake Doc Martens until I was called out by an 8th grader, then immediately begged my parents to buy me real ones (they did).  Later, I started wearing CoverGirl powder foundation and bought a dark, moody shade of burgundy lipstick, which I never wore.  But during these years, I also won an award for playing trumpet, discovered I was an excellent speech-writer, and took my first week-long overnight trip without my parents.

Although some of my tween style choices might have been questionable, my parents let me do as I pleased. They let me figure out who I was on my own.  So that’s my plan.  I will support my stepson’s tween interests and style choices, encourage him to take chances, and I will model some healthy living along the way.  After all, many of life’s memorable moments occur not when we’re living perfectly, but when we’re going with the flow and following our curiosity wherever it may take us.

by Kemi Ogunji, Executive/Development Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Takeaways from the Healthy Teen Network Conference

Last week I traveled to Savannah, Ga. for the 34th Annual Healthy Teen Network (HTN) Conference. Every time I attend a conference, I leave inspired, motivated and a little overwhelmed with all the ideas that have come forth. I leave with pages of notes and list of things I want to remember once I get back to work. Here are the top three takeaways from my HTN experience:

  • Read more about Peter Benson and the theories surrounding "Sparks," a metaphor for the talents and passions that motivate young people to grow and learn.
  • “Visual literacy is a 21st Century skill. We have to honor that.” -- Karen Gavigan.
  • “What if we don’t believe problems erase strength?” -- Kathy Putnam.
Next year, join Healthy Teen Network to celebrate 35 years at their annual conference in Austin, Texas!

by Meredith Talford, Upstate Training and TA Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sex Ed From a Father's Perspective

I am a father of two young kids. A few weeks ago, my wife called and was upset because she saw our five-year-old daughter crying during an intruder drill at the elementary school where she attends kindergarten and my wife teaches. My wife said that our daughter was crying and scared as she and her fellow classmates huddled together in the bathroom of her classroom while having to be completely silent. Prior to the drill (which is scheduled periodically), her teacher had to explain what the dangers were and how they could protect themselves, which included practicing for the intruder drills. As a father, the thought of my daughter being upset and frightened was not easy to deal with. I, and many other parents, would do anything humanly possible to avoid having our children feel this way. The beginning of the conversations between my wife and I started with how uncomfortable we were with not only our little girl being scared but us having to think about what is possible and the possible danger both of our kids could be in. After we talked for a while we both agreed that it was unfortunately necessary for our kids to know the dangers that are out there and that it is a good thing to practice protecting yourself against them. 

I have been working in teen pregnancy prevention for over 12 years now and have heard plenty of reasons why people do not support comprehensive sexuality education and also reasons some choose not to discuss sexuality at all. I think sometimes it is hard for others and myself to see how they could think in such a way and often quickly blow them off or label them with being close minded or “old fashioned” without stopping to think why they believe that. Now, the danger that I described above is obviously different and scarier to some than teen pregnancy but I still draw parallels when talking to others about both. I have been in this field a long time and deeply believe in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that it’s a young person’s right to know what they are in danger of and how to protect themselves. I talk about this issue daily for work and freely and often as possible outside of work. Teaching, training, talking and discussing sexuality is easy and something I enjoy. Others have not talked about it daily, and in fact, many adults have not talked about it much, if ever. When I talk about sex or sexuality in some settings, I see adults growing visibly uncomfortable and even upset that I am speaking about the topic. I also have worked for and with school districts in many different settings and have had to deal with parents and community members who do not want their teens discussing sex at all, not to mention not teaching comprehensive sex ed. My question is why are they so against this topic that I am so passionate about teaching? Don’t they know the risks their kids are subjected to? Don’t they know how easy it is to educate them? Don’t they know that practicing a skill could help prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies? Well, no…no they don’t.

I have found through working in this field, and more importantly to me, talking to my friends, family, and peers that I have known for many years, and in some cases, my whole life is that they all believe that teen pregnancy and STIs are a problem but mostly they are uncomfortable talking about issues because they never had anyone talk to them. Many believe that their young person is not at risk. I will always begin the conversation telling them that just because something makes us uncomfortable and we wish it wasn’t necessary to address, doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do for others who need it and deserve it. Many of the people may have grown up in an area or situation where these topics were not an issue, but the reality is that it is an issue for their young people. I wish I didn’t have to talk to my kids about strangers and intruders in schools or fire and tornado drills for that matter, but I know that ignoring these dangers and failing to talk to them is not fair to them nor will it help protect them. I also wish that my daughter and her classmates didn’t have to practice these drills, but I know that practicing a skill is more effective than just talking about it. I have found that talking to others and educating them about the risk that young people are facing everywhere, not just in “those” neighborhoods, help them to understand why they or their communities, including schools, should be talking about comprehensive sexuality education. I also think it helps to show them that even if they are uncomfortable and wish it wasn’t an issue doesn’t meant that it should not be addressed today. Most people don’t have the comfort level that I have to talk about love, sex, and relationships but they have to understand that their young people need to talk about it, learn skills to protect themselves, and be given the space and time to practice the skills they have been taught.

Some may wish we lived in a time where STIs, teen pregnancies, and unhealthy relationships weren’t an issue, but the reality is that it is. And just because you wish it didn’t exist and are uncomfortable with talking about these things doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be addressed. Choosing not to talk about it and give accurate and factual information will not protect anyone from anything. I know that just because the thought of possible dangerous situations that my children may face may not be easy for me to think about or even talk about at times, that it is still my responsibility to talk to them about it and help them know how they can protect themselves. 

by Chris Rollison, Technical Assistance Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Turtle Power!

When I was about five, I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had all their action figures, begged for karate lessons, and told my mom I’d die if I didn’t get home in time to watch the show. Obviously there was only once choice for a Halloween costume that year.

Me and my older sister, 1991
That year I wasn’t dressed up as Rafael. I was Rafael. I was taking my ninja skills to the street and God help any bad guys trying to steal candy or egg houses. I was funnier, smarter, and stronger than the five year old I had been that morning. That’s always been the essence of Halloween in my book. The chance to be something you’re not.

So why do so many young women choose to take characters with fantastic traits and reduce them to a “sexy ninja turtle”? Anyone can throw on some makeup and a short dress, but how many people can pop out of a sewer drain, stop crime, and finish it all with a hilarious pun?  

It’s no secret that the media is bombarding our girls with messages that say they should derive their worth from their beauty, how they dress, and how easily they can attract men. But in the face of all that, how do we make them believe us when we say it’s way cooler to be the smartest or funniest girl in your class than it is to be the one with the shortest dress?

When we get that message across, it'll be easier to tell our girls that boys and men can and will love them even if they say no to sex. That it’s your personality, your brains, and your sense of humor your partner should hold most dear, not how hot you look in a skimpy outfit.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Letter to My Son

So, I am not quite a parent yet since I am still “cooking” what seems to be a toddler-size fetus for the next four weeks, but I have thought about what kind of parent I hope to be and what I want to teach my baby boy. I am sure that this is the first of many letters that I will write my son.

Dear Mac,

Currently you are tap-dancing on my bladder but in less than four weeks, your father and I will meet you face to face and hold you in our arms. Your father and I decided on your name almost 14 years ago. Your father and I were high school sweethearts and we talked about how if we ever had children that we would name our son after my grandfather. You see, you were in our dreams, our thoughts, and our prayers long before we were married or even old enough to vote. And now as we count down the days until we meet you, we couldn’t be more excited to hold you for the first time and tell you how much we love you. We want you to have the best experience that life has to offer, but we know that life can disappoint and hurt you sometimes, so here are a few things to always remember:

  • It’s okay to not be okay: You don’t have to be the best at everything you do, in fact sometimes the only way we learn anything in this messy world is when we make a few mistakes. So know that it is okay to NOT be okay. These are the times where we hug a little tighter, cry a little harder and you may see mommy drinking a little more wine…but that’s okay because we are a family and we WILL get through anything that life brings us. 
  • Be silly and laugh often: One day, you will have a mortgage, medical bills and a family of your own, but until then – enjoy life and be silly! Your father is better at this than I am, just ask him about his award-winning hula dance and coconut brassiere.
  • Love unconditionally: Love is not a noun but a verb, you have to make it work and work hard at it. Your father and I have experienced moments when it was very hard to love one another but we worked through it and tried our best to put our relationship first before our own individual needs. You will get grossed out when your dad kisses me or when I pinch your dad’s cute toosh, but just know that we love each other unconditionally, and we will do the same for you, no matter what. 
  • Fight for what you love: You will see that your father and I don’t always get along and have had times where we wanted to throw in the towel, but we never gave up and we ask you to do the same. Fight for what you love and for who you love. This might mean doing things that you wouldn’t necessarily do on your own, like when I go hunting with your dad or when he goes antiquing with me. I will do the same for you and you will get dragged into antiquing with me.
  • Respect yourself and others: Your father fought in Iraq for our country and your great grandfathers fought in the Vietnam War and Korean War. Each of these honorable men made a sacrifice to fight for a larger cause other than themselves. They fought for the freedom we have today, so we ask that you always respect yourself and respect those around you. This means that you should always look people in the eye when speaking to them, open doors for women and always stand up and shake hands when being introduced.
  • Talk to us: Your father and I were 15 once and made some pretty stupid decisions, so it is okay to talk to us. We have most likely been there, done that. I know that sometimes you will only want to talk to your father but know that I am here, and I will do my best to provide a listening ear. 
  • Take risks: Sometimes life requires us to be bold and take risks. Sometimes this means moving to a 198-square-foot apartment in a city where you don’t know anyone (just make sure to call mom) and sometimes this means applying for a job that you don’t think you have any chance of getting. Sometimes the juice is worth the squeeze….so squeeze away my son.
  • Keep your head down and your eyes up: Your father and I spent a lot of our life running from God and never quite feeling whole. When we finally stopped running, we realized that the most important lesson in life is to stay humble and keep our eyes focused on our faith. This is the most important lesson of all. We will screw up and we will not be the perfect parents, but we promise to do our best to be humble, love God, love each other and love you with all our hearts. 

I can’t promise that life will be easy but I do promise that we will love you and stand by you no matter what. We promise to teach you what we have learned along the way, but I am confident that you will teach us more than we could ever teach you. 

"I wanted you more than you ever will know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go." – Nancy Tillman

Love Always,
Momma and Daddy

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If I Were a Child Again

A few Sundays ago, the pastor of Brookland Baptist Church gave a sermon on love, pertaining to parents and children.  The scriptural reading came from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.”  He gave the sermon from the insight as a child talking to adults. 

Pastor Jackson’s first point of emphasis was:  I hope my parents and adults would remember when I had something to say I would SPEAK it as a child.  This means children imitate what is heard from other adults.  I have grown to realize many people do not believe that children listen to what they are saying, because they almost never listen whenever they are given advice. Children often see and hear more than what we think they do.  For instance, a story was told during the sermon about a little boy in Sunday School who was called upon to pray.  He started off his prayer with Dear Mr. Damn.  After he finished praying, the teacher asked why he referred to God as “Mr. D.”  The child answered saying, “Well, isn’t that God’s second name?”  He was speaking what he had heard from other adults.  Those adults are his role models, and I’ve heard many adults say, “Do as I say, not as I do,” but that doesn’t guarantee that a child won’t imitate you.        
Pastor Jackson’s second point was:  I hope my parents and other adults would remember I UNDERSTAND as a child. I put thoughts into action based on my understanding from my role models.  Basically, what I see in my parents and others is how I will act because what they are doing is how I understand things to work.  If parents and other role models portray strong work ethic, then children will understand what it means to work.  If there is an emphasis on education around children, then they will understand how important education is.  On the other hand, if a child only sees one parent or adult working in their household and the other sits at home watching TV and eating all day, then they will understand that this is the way a household should be.  

Finally, Pastor Jackon’s last point was this:  I hope my parents would remember that my childish thoughts about love are how my parents display love toward each other.  Pastor Jackson pointed out three kinds of love:  IF love, BECAUSE love and ANYHOW love.  IF love is explained as conditional love that depends on behavior; the love is earned.  An example given was:  “if you make all As and Bs in school, I’ll be proud of you as my child.”  All children understand IF love because they are always bargained with IF love to gain certain results.  Children recognize IF love that is dependent upon works, not grace.  IF love can be great to mold children into how they should act, but it should not be the only love displayed.

Children view BECAUSE love as being more protective of the parent and not considerate of the child.  It is based upon appearance, because a parent holds a certain position, i.e. a president of a company, may expect certain things from their child and they have to conduct themselves in a certain manner.  This means not bringing shame upon the parents and upholding the family’s name.  This could be a great kind of love also because it brings children a sense of responsibility and duty into their lives.  However, many times BECAUSE love is what keeps families together, because the family does not want to break their image. They may stay together for the children no matter what, even if they are no longer in love. 

Thirdly, ANYHOW love is recognized and thought about by children for their parents.  Children need ANYHOW love because of the many challenges they may be facing in their lives.  Children will make mistakes, just like adults did and still do.  ANYHOW love is patient and kind, not jealous or arrogant, does not insist on its own way, not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrong but rejoices in the right, and bares, believes, and hope of all things.  Children may disappoint their parents at times but parents should love them anyhow. 

I can only hope that I am being a great role model to the children that are looking up to me and displaying actions of love for them to imitate.  Once I become a parent, I also hope that I will be able to display actions that are worthy of my children’s hearing and seeing.  One way to ensure this is to open the lines of communication between children and parents and/or trusted adults.  Knowing the things your children are doing, and how they are doing those things, will always show what the child is being taught through other people’s actions at home.  This goes back to an earlier example of the child calling God Mr. D.  A parent would have known that their child calls God Mr. D if they are keeping an open line of communication and could help to correct that behavior.  It’s always said that “learning starts at home.”        

For resources and information on how to talk to your child, visit our Parent Portal.

 by Edwina Mack, USC Master of Social Work Field Place Student, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Silence is Only Golden in the Movies…

I wholeheartedly believe that communication is the key to any worthwhile relationship, including the relationship between parents and children.  Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has shared with me that I can always come to her no matter what.  Knowing this, it made my relationship with my mother transcend into something so much more.  Over the years, I have talked to my mother about everything from guys to social pressures.  Through these conversations, my mother became more than my mother…she became my best friend.  Now, whenever I go through anything in life, the first person I call is my mom, and it is because she laid the foundation for open, honest communication from the start.

I dedicated my dissertation to my mother because she has always been that listening ear and my primary source of wisdom and advice.  My dissertation was on parent-child communication and my research found that having conversations early and being open and honest about sensitive issues will result in an increased bond between parent and child.  I encourage all young people to talk to your parents about what you are going through, and I challenge parents to be more open and receptive to what their child has to say.  Just because they talk about it, doesn’t mean they are doing it!  In celebration of Let’s Talk Month, I challenge all young people to start at least ONE conversation with their parent daily.  It can be about anything from fashion, to sports, or an upcoming pep rally!  The point is that it is never too late to start talking to your parents.  I am 28 and my mother just turned 60 last week, and I still call and talk to my mother every day about life and it is because she encouraged this communication from the start.  Don’t let fear or embarrassment silence you…START TALKING TODAY!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Your Challenge: Become an "Askable" Adult

Growing up in several non-traditional family situations, such as living with my grandparents and with my friends’ families, I had many sources of information as a teenager. But how do you know who to trust and who to go to for guidance and advice?  I surely wasn’t comfortable turning to my dad, brother, or grandparents for advice about love, sex, and relationships. I was lucky that my middle school and high school supported a comprehensive sex education program, so I learned a lot about the birds and the bees in health class, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Me and my beautiful nieces, June 2010
Due to the instability at home in middle school and high school, many of my friends’ moms took me under their wing and made sure I was doing well. I always felt like I had many moms who deeply cared about me and supported me in all that I did – school, music, athletics, attending college, and later, grad school. I even had a friends’ mom go to a doctor’s visit with me when I was feeling anxious about a certain procedure and diagnosis. Not every child is as lucky as I was to have so many adults involved in their lives, but many times these adults were someone other than my parent; they were in a different role, but were in a position to be a trusted, “askable” adult.

During my senior year of high school, I moved in with a family who I had become very close to, and I was fortunate to be supported by everyone – immediate family members and extended. They took me in as one of their own on Nov. 2, 2004, and I have loved them as family ever since. It was also fortunate that my new “dad” was a pediatrician and my new “mom” was a pediatric nurse (both have recently retired), so I had more access to accurate health information than other people my age. Most of the time, I was more comfortable asking sensitive questions to those adults who were not in my biological family.

My challenge to you is this: even if you aren’t a parent, become a trusted, “askable” adult, whether it’s to a sibling, a niece or nephew, a member of your Girl Scout troop or on the football team you coach. Our young people need to have access to and be comfortable with having open, honest conversations with adults who are knowledgeable and know accurate information about sex and contraception. Educate yourself on these issues and make yourself available as a good resource for young people in your life. I hope that when my nieces are old enough, they will approach me for advice about sensitive topics, and I will be prepared to guide them and support them in making responsible decisions.

For resources on how to talk to young people about love, sex, and relationships, click here.

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Parents Weekend

Photo credit:
When Parents Weekend comes around each year, the campus transforms into an entirely different place.  All of my residents’ rooms are spotless and there is nothing inappropriate written on the white boards posted outside each door. I’m used to students acting differently around their parents, but I was especially surprised this year.  Knowing that most of my residents are sexually active, I made a bulletin board that had helpful resources pertaining to sex on it.  Everyone liked the board and found it helpful- until Parents' Weekend came around.

I had several residents come to me and ask me to take the board down before their parents got there.  They said their parents would feel uncomfortable, and it would embarrass them.  If my residents are afraid to let their parents see a bulletin board that has information about birth control on it, I can only imagine that they are not having open conversations about their own relationships.

If you’re a parent, I encourage you to tell your teen that you will not be embarrassed by a bulletin board about sex or birth control.  Not only that, but I encourage you to talk to your teens about sex and healthy relationships on your own.  Open conversations on these topics will lead to a more open and honest relationship.  You should strive to have a relationship where your child does not feel the need to morph into another version of themselves when you come to visit them in college.

by Ella Brittingham, Graphic Design Intern, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Let’s Talk Month: Supporting Parents at Every Stage in the Journey

Credit: Child and Family Mental Health
It’s often easy to say should have, would have, could have, when talking about all types of issues.  But parenting is one area where, in many cases, everyone’s an expert – until they have the experience!  As the parent of a four year old, I realize that I am only beginning this journey, yet I feel like I have already had to deal with some very interesting experiences when it comes to guiding Landen in the ways of behavior and relationships.  One thing is for sure, starting early is any understatement.  Early on, especially during potty training, we had to explore the proper terms for his body parts which led to his most important work of art – the picture of the spider with a penis (see my blog on this episode!)  His friendships with a couple of female classmates have included kisses on the cheek and the tightest hugs ever.  Now, we do our best to not make a big deal about these very cute moments, but they are great teachable moments when we can talk age-appropriately about good touch/bad touch, respecting other peoples’ space and boundaries and respecting himself as a young man.  Deep stuff, right?  Well, it doesn't have to be heavy all of the time – we often talk about his future and how he will be a an adult one day who will have to continue being nice and helpful to others, especially those who he is really close to – like a girlfriend.

Let’s Talk Month has always been important to me as a professional because it emphasizes the importance of supporting and partnering with parents as it relates to preventing teen pregnancy and preparing young people for maturity in relationships.  Now, as a parent, I realize that campaigns like this are crucial in helping us get through every stage of this journey called parenting.  This process is not about teaching parents something they don’t know or judging their performance – rather it’s about SUPPORT. Although this does include education and guidance at the core of this campaign, it is the realization that we are all connected and everyone, not just parents, are impacted by young people’s growth and development within our communities.

I started working in teen pregnancy prevention in my early twenties, when my perspective was all about mentoring young people and providing resources for parents.  Over the past decade, I have grown tremendously as a professional, and I credit the experience of leading local public awareness campaigns such as Let’s Talk Month, with preparing me for this new journey:  parenting and helping develop a mature, respectful young man.

About Let’s Talk Month  
Let's Talk Month is lead by Advocates for Youth. Each October, groups across the nation, including the SC Campaign, promote effective communication between young people and the adults they trust, especially their parents. Let's Talk Month emphasizes the importance of a strong partnership between the community and families in helping young people develop responsible, positive, sexual health attitudes and behaviors.

by Kimberly Wicker, Outreach & Development Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Making of a Man

I had the pleasure of attending a Young Men’s Program meeting in Boston last week hosted by John Snow, Inc. (JSI). The goal was for us to learn how to better engage young men in teen pregnancy prevention work, but the result was so much more! As a female, I have taken for granted how differently our boys and young men think, act, and believe because I have not had the experience of being male. As we kick off Let’s Talk Month, there are some things to keep in mind when communicating with our young men – full credit for these concepts goes to Ozvaldo “Ozzie” Cruz and Mario Ozuna-Sanchez of the National Compadres Network and National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute.

Society teaches young men that they are supposed to be strong and not show emotion – they are supposed to be the protectors. They must be respected.  If not taught how to be protective, our boys and men can express this sentiment through violence. We need to talk to our young men about the difference between being a warrior and a soldier – soldiers follow orders as they go into war. Warriors try to protect and avoid situations that would be unsafe. Our boys are often entering into battle to show that they are strong because they don’t understand that using their head instead of their fists shows greater strength.

 Our boys seek relationships, but if they aren’t taught what a healthy relationship looks like, they begin to equate sex with relationships. The media teaches our young men that they aren’t “real men” if they aren’t having sex as often as possible with as many women as possible.  We need to help our young men understand that while relationships can certainly be sexual, having sex with someone is not the same as being in a meaningful, fulfilling relationship. It’s also important for them to understand the importance of having strong relationships with other men.

Males value honor, but if not taught how to live honorably, it is easy to determine that honor comes with money and material possessions. When our young men equate success with the size of their paycheck, selling drugs (for example) may seem like a really good idea. Making money at all costs makes sense. We need to work with our young men to develop a different understanding of success and what it means to be a man of honor.

The final thought from Ozzie and Mario that stuck with me is that we, as adults, do not give our young people purpose. They already have purpose. Our job is to help them unearth what their purpose is. I’m hoping that Let’s Talk Month will push me to meet some young men where they are as they are and help them learn their purpose. And I hope that you will do the same.

For advice on how to talk to your child or other youth, visit our Parent Portal.

by Dana Becker, Spartanburg Community Mobilization Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Parent-Child Communication from a Big Sister’s Point of View

October is Let’s Talk Month where we encourage parents and other trusted adults to talk to teens about love, sex, and relationships. A trusted adult could be a pastor, coach, teacher, aunt, uncle, brother, or sister. I’m proud to say that I am someone my little sister trusts for accurate, reliable information. I’m only three years older than her, but I've always tried to look out for her, and protect her, giving feedback and guidance every step of the way.

Growing up in a single-parent household was tough because there wasn't a consistent father figure present, and I had to grow up so fast. I was faced with adult situations early on, making me mature much faster than most kids my age. With mama working odd shift to provide for us, I felt as if I were a substitute mom to my sister, holding myself responsible for her triumphs and mistakes. There were times my sister asked me situational questions about love, sex, and relationships that even I, in my infinite 20-something- year-old wisdom, had no experience with. When she would start her sentence off with “If a boy were to say…,” I knew I had to brace myself for something wild to follow. There were times like this that I wish she could talk to mama for guidance. But I knew the circumstances all too well. My mom wasn't exactly an “askable parent.” I didn’t even feel comfortable going to her with my own relationship woes, so I knew my sister wouldn’t dare ask her anything. That left me in the middle, sweating it out in an interrogation room plastered with B2K and Lil’ Bow Wow posters every Friday after school. I’m thankful that I happen to be a bookworm and had enough sense to use resources available to me for those questions about love, sex, and relationships that I couldn’t answer. I know there are thousands of single-parent families in South Carolina and you can only hope that the trusted adult would readily seek knowledge like I did. But we know that’s not the case. That being said, I would like to challenge parents to be more askable. An askable parent or adult is someone who listens, is nonjudgmental, conversational, welcoming, open, and honest. To sum it up, being askable means that you try to keep it real with your children without compromising the core values that you've instilled them.

I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for the world, but I had to grow up a lot faster than others and that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone who’s still a child themselves.  Being an askable parent doesn’t mean you have to compromise your values of your belief system, but if you don’t talk to your child about love, sex, and relationships, somebody else will.

For tips on how to be an askable parent and more, visit!

by Shana Adams, Communications Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Southern #DataDiva Visits the Big City

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to present at Tableau Software’s annual conference. This would mark my very first visit to Washington, DC, which just so happened to fall during the week of September 11th. This week is typically a week that stirs up bad memories and reminds us of all the evil that still exists in the world. During my week in the big city I couldn't help but notice the opposite.

As a South Carolina native who does very little travelling out of state, I had a preconceived idea of what my adventures in DC would be. I expected to get lost in a crowd or have my life in danger from the wild driving skills of the cab drivers (not so – both drivers were very cautious and extremely kind). Instead, I was delighted with the hospitality of our nation’s capital city and the residents who love it.

While at the conference I was in my element among #DataNerds from all over the country and abroad. I soaked up every opportunity to learn how to pimp my dashboard (that’s another blog in itself), makeover my database and carve my path to becoming a #DataDiva. Midway through the conference, I presented on how the SC Campaign is using a Business Intelligence software to monitor teen birth trends and where to invest for programming in our state. It was exciting to present on behalf of our organization and the progress our state is making toward reducing the teen birth rate.

I spent most of my visit just outside of downtown DC in the National Harbor. Ironically, my only opportunity to travel into DC was on September 11th. The day before, a fellow conference attendee sat down at my lunch table and soon realized it was my first visit to DC. He began to gush about how wonderful the city is. His passion for the city was contagious and encouraged me to be brave and explore the city the following day (he even convinced me that taking the metro into town was something I must try – and I did!). I saw the Washington Monument, the White House and more food trucks than I knew existed!

I’ll never forget my time in DC – it was a reminder of how kind people can be even amidst one of the saddest weeks for our country.

by Jordan Slice, Research and Evaluation Associate, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Little Hammock Time Goes a Long Way

Now, let’s be honest.  No one has ever accused me of biting off more than I can chew.  I’m really not a “yes” person, and I’m unapologetic about doing my own thing.  Despite this, the past few months of my life have swirled together like a box melted crayons, all the vibrant colors muted in a pile of muddy brown.  My mind in a fog, many of my conversations have play out like this:

Co-worker: “How was your weekend?”
Me:  “Uh…hmm…what did I do yesterday?  I don’t really remember…  I think I left the house?”

Photo by: Meagan Jean Wooley 

Mom: “Alright, give me directions as I drive.”
Me:  “Okay, keep going and turn at the thing.”

In this example, “the thing” means street.  My mind is too lazy to recall the word for STREET! :( “Something’s gotta give,” I tell myself day after day.

As part of a book exchange here at the SC Campaign, I started reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.  After reading the first couple of chapters, my focus is already shifting, and I feel more at peace.  In an effort to relax this Sunday, I sat in my hammock and read in the cool, fall air.  It was the best decision I made all weekend!  The quiet time not only helped me relax yesterday, but it poured into the beginning of my work week.    

On my journey to live a more meaningful life at home and at work, I’m trying to prioritize quiet time just as much as washing the dishes, helping my stepson with homework and catching up on television shows.  I am my best wife/mother/daughter/friend when I am present, not distracted.  So if you see me walking around like a Zen priestess, you’ll know I’ve been keeping my promise to myself.  If you spot me dragging around my zombie limbs in a cloudy haze, remind me to take some hammock time – just a little goes a long way.

by Kemi Ogunji, Executive and Development Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fruits & Veggies: More Matters Month

According the, September is Fruits & Veggies: More Matters Month. Now that Summer is coming to an end, the  local farmers and super markets will be filled with turnips, pumpkins, broccoli, butter lettuce, honey dew and other seasonal fruits and vegetables that can lower our risk for some chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, most of us don’t eat enough from this food group.

Only 1 in 3 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits every day*. Only 1 in 4 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day*. Changing our eating habits can be overwhelming, but there are small things we can do. We can encourage our families to have at least one serving of  fresh fruit or vegetables with each meal and motivate local businesses to create healthier workplaces by providing quality foods. Personally, I enjoy visiting the local farmers markets on Saturday mornings. I have really embraced the field-to-fork concept.


by Meredith Talford, Upstate Training & TA Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy