Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons from My Mom

As part of my gift to my mom this year for Mother’s Day, I decided to compile a list of things she has taught me – lessons that extended far beyond my childhood years to still resonate today. I thought I would share some of those lessons with you. I’m confident the world would be a better place if more of us were teaching these lessons to our young people!

1.     “Life is not fair. Period.” Kids (and adults) are always clamoring for things to be fair. If she gets to do it, I should get to do it too. The reality is that life is NOT always fair. You will not always get what you want. You will not always make the team. You will not always be accepted to the group. Young people can whine about it all day long but the sooner they learn to accept that sometimes life will throw them lemons, the sooner they’ll be able to start making lemonade. And the sooner they can begin to develop the skills needed to handle disappointment.

2.    “Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is be silent.” I saw my mother practice this more than preach it. I watched her in moments where she had every right to be angry, every right to lash back out at someone, when instead she took a deep breath, held her head high, and walked away. Much like the “life is not fair” lesson, this was powerful for me as a teenager – particularly when I felt I was being treated unfairly. When I think of the abundance of bullying that goes on today and how much work goes into trying to stop it, I also wonder if we’re equipping our young people to realize that someone else’s opinion of them does not define who they are – does not determine their worth. There will always be someone who will talk badly about them, gossip about them, be mean to them in general. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the strongest thing they can do is take a deep breath, hold their head high, and walk away.

3.     “There are over a quarter of a million words in the English language so you should never need to use curse words. We might also work on how we put the others together when we are expressing ourselves.” This was a lesson my mom mentioned often in her classroom as a high school English teacher before retiring and that we often heard at home – particularly the last part. What if we were teaching our children to use words that build others up rather than tear them down?

4.     “Your clothes should draw attention to your countenance. Your face is what you want people to notice about you.” This is one I find myself sharing most often today when I speak to parents. Our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, students need to understand that their value and worth does NOT come from their cup size or the circumference of their waist. When we teach them to dress in a way that does not focus attention on their bodies, we instill within them a sense that their worth comes from what is in their heads and hearts instead. This lesson goes along with another which is “You are special and beautiful because God made you, and God doesn’t make junk!”

5.    “If you are bored, it's your fault. There is too much to do in the world for you to ever be bored.” Growing up, this often referred to the mess that was my bedroom or clean dishes that screamed to be put away. My mom knew there were always things that needed to be done! But it also speaks to a greater notion of looking beyond ourselves to see the needs around us. When our young people tire of the DS and the iPad and whatever is on TV, does it occur to them to find out how they can get involved in their community? Are there soup kitchens that need servers? Are there food pantries that need shelves stocked? Are there community center programs for children that could use volunteers? Is there an elderly neighbor who could use assistance with yard work? We live in a world where the needs are unending, so to instill the idea of not accepting boredom – of seeking out things to do and ways to be involved – is critical. Not accepting boredom also allows young people to use their imaginations and discover their talents in ways that probably won’t happen through the latest Wii game or YouTube video.

Here are a few more self-explanatory lessons my mom taught me:
6.    “Remember WHO you are and WHOSE you are.”
7.    “When you make your bed, your whole room looks cleaner” (even if it isn’t).
8.    “A little bit of lipstick immediately makes you feel more pulled together” (even if you aren’t).
9.    “Overdressing a little for any occasion where you’re unsure of the dress code guarantees you’ll never be under dressed.”
10.    “Sundays are for church and napping – in that order.”
11.    “When you live with a song in your heart, you’ll find you have a song for everything.”
12.    “Be an encourager.”
13.    “Use punctuation correctly.”
14.    “Dust before you vacuum.”
15.    “Honor your father and mother.”

Many thanks to Mrs. Beth Green Becker for the content of this blog.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our 2013 Road Show Shenanigans

As many of you could tell from following our social media and our website, we have been out of the office for the last few weeks.  The SC Campaign staff have been traveling around South Carolina to help raise awareness, host community meetings, and promote our teen website, CarolinaTeenHealth.org. at over 90 events the first few weeks of May.

A lot of great things came out of these meetings, including having communities become more dedicated to the issue of preventing teen pregnancy. And that has been well documented through the photos posted on our facebook page. But what happens behind the scenes?  Over 3,000 miles were traveled. Countless hotels were visited, multiple fast food chains, and even more gas stations, but the real story comes from the SC Campaign crew themselves.  So because of this, we present to you, ROAD SHOW SHENNANIGANS!

To get us off on the right foot, we have SC Campaign CEO, Forrest Alton, showing how we can use alternative forms of transportation for our statewide travel! We just need to make sure we have enough quarters to make the trip!

Our next photo is probably more confusing to us than anything. What is so special about this roof on a building in the upstate? Whatever it is, they must have had too many people climbing up with out permission. We just have one more question, does the owner charge for a trip up to the roof? 
When traveling around the state, we get to see a lot of different things. Beautiful pastures, scenic views of our state, and amazing small communities.  Some of the other things we get to see are a lot of parking lots and a lot of BAD parking jobs. This one was the worst...

Anytime you are putting so many miles on the pavement, you should expect to encounter standard highway fare, fast food, shredded tires, and State Troopers. Yes, that is a photo of a State Trooper pulling one of our SC Campaign staff vehicles over. Apparently we were too excited to get to our new event. Thankfully, he understood, gave us a warning, and we took our lead foot off the gas pedal.
One final SHENNANIGAN was a FIRST this year for SC Campaign staff. While waiting for a news appearance, the entire station lost power...ten minutes to live broadcast. Never before had we been privy to the behind the scenes chaos that is LIVE news as we were that day. Flashlights were brought out, the generator was examined, and the next seven minutes were nail biters, but three minutes to air, the lights came back on, the anchors took their places, and it was 3, 2, 1...."We have here with us today Forrest Alton, CEO of the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy..."

Even through all of our travels, we still found things to laugh about, things to learn about, and people to care about. Road Show 2013 was as big a success as ever! Even if it did start out on a pig.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Melissa Keeps it Moving

Many Americans do not learn what survival means until after college when their parents stop supporting them financially.  Even then, many twenty-somethings still call mom or dad for comfort after a bad day or to seek advice before buying a car or first home.  Having grown up in foster care, Melissa did not have parents to lean on.  At 18 years old, Melissa’s family consisted of close friends.  In October 1996, Melissa gave birth to her son, Issaiah.  He then became her family and she, his “keeper.

More than a decade before MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, 18-year-old Melissa Rodriguez shared her story of teen pregnancy and child birth on a radio segment called Radio Diaries.  The program first aired in 1996 on NPR’s All Things Considered and featured teens telling their life stories into a tape-recorder.  Last week, NPR aired Melissa’s follow-up story as part of the series Teenage Diaries Revisited (recorded in 2012).

Photo by David Gilkey/NPR
In the early years following Issaiah’s birth, Melissa discovered the beauty of motherhood as she marveled at her son’s smile and his wiggle dances.  But she often felt tired and wished for someone to share the parenting duties so she could take a walk or smoke an occasional cigarette.  Like most teen moms, she regretted having sex at a young age and wished she would have waited to have her son.

To pay the bills, Melissa worked as a secretary for $6 an hour before signing up for government assistance receiving $400 and $120 in food stamps each month.  The welfare program allowed her to spend more time with Issaiah, but her monthly allowance did not help her get ahead.  So she started stripping to make up the difference.  The extra income enabled her to earn a college degree and ultimately attain a day job.  Today, she works as a customer service representative with a cable company and loves fixing problems for people.  “It’s my calling,” she says.

In Melissa’s 2012 recordings, she talks about the challenges of raising a son with Cerebellar Ataxia, a neurological condition that interferes with balance and coordination.  Although Issaiah (now 16 years old) grew out of his physical ailments, he struggles to retain information.  Melissa also has a second son, six-year-old Tyrone.  She raises both boys on her own.

Melissa is a survivor, and she knows it.  What 18-year-old Melissa might not have known is that chances were pretty good that she would become a teen mom. Older teens (18 – 19 year olds) have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, as do low-income teens and those living in foster care.  Melissa’s life could have turned out a number of devastating ways.  She could have become addicted to drugs or ended up living on the streets.  And while Melissa’s life is not easy, she has a family and job she loves.  Something inside tells her to “keep it moving,” she says.  Something somewhere gives her hope.  

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

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

So this happened...#whatwasIthinking

I don’t generally meet a stranger. Ask my friends. Not that I don’t meet new people, I meet them all the time, but I generally make quick work of finding out who they are and what they are about.  That does not translate for my social media personality. 

When my supervisor originally asked me to start a Twitter account so I could be engaged in the world of social media more than with Facebook (which was all the craze back in the day), I was hesitant.  I am not one for short remarks in any fashion, preferring rather to have my say in long paragraphs.  But not wanting to “miss out” on the newest social media craze, I started my Twitter, wrote a few tweets, and then promptly forgot about it.  I would check on it from time to time, but saw nothing that would make me believe that THIS was the communication tool of the future.  I had 15 followers, all friends, who, out of the goodness in their hearts, had followed my pitiful attempt at tweeting to make me feel better.

So many months and only a handful of tweets later, my Twitter account sat largely unused and forgotten.  But then something happened. As I was trolling (real term) around on Tumblr to try to find things to repost for our youth website CarolinaTeenHealth.org, I found a tweet from an actor. Not an uncommon find on Tumblr, and I read it. This actor was participating in the UNICEF “Live Below the Line” challenge where people are asked to live on food for under $1.50 a day. This was to increase awareness and change attitudes for the millions of people in the world who live below the poverty line every day. As someone who grew up below the poverty line, this project intrigued me, as did the names attached to the “pace setter” campaign of “Live Below the Line.” Actors, models, celebrities-all giving up eating at high-priced restaurants and leaving the Starbucks alone was quite admirable in many ways, especially in an occupation where “appearance is everything.” I wanted to find out more, so I went to this actors Twitter page to see how he was raising awareness (and money) during this project. 

When I got there, I realized that this project, and more specifically, his undertaking of the project, was dividing his very large fan base (when I arrived on his page, I was not remiss in noticing his almost 500,000 followers -- I still had only 30). Some folks were encouraged that he was doing something “so selfless” while others were appalled at the gall of this well-heeled young man taking something on that could only be seen as a poor attempt at living “below the line.” After all, didn’t he still have a very nice home, a very nice car, and a very nice actor’s salary?

I cannot say what possessed me to do it, but I wanted to help. I wanted to give him some information that he could actually use to inform what his actions were, how they could be really effective given the right talking points, and educate him on how to truly make a difference if he were really interested in making a change in the world.

So I tweeted him. Little old me, in the middle of South Carolina, to a man living in London and making movies I had seen in movie theatres. I sent him a tweet about the documentary Unnatural Causes, which describes in detail how health disparities are directly related to wealth disparities. And then I waited. For what to happen, I don’t know. 

As a day passed, I realized that when someone has 500,000 followers, the chances of them seeing your actual tweet sent to them is minimal, and probably idiotic, but I had done it.  And that made me feel empowered.  They say, “reach one, teach one” and I had done that. Through no fault of my own, my message may have been lost, but I had tried to get information out there.  It was then that I decided to make a point to send this actor a resource to educate himself about poverty, programs to end poverty, and the importance of research & data, to, as I said in my tweets, “#makethemoneywork.”  So for five days, I tweeted an ACTOR with TED talks, links to articles, and anything else I thought might help him make a difference with his campaign.

In the end, he never retweeted my resources or replied, but I realized that it didn’t matter. I had found my social media voice. And it was one that I could use to educate anyone who would listen about matters that were important to me. I found my voice in my passion for causes and my desire to change the world.

This is what we need to teach our young people about social media.  Yes, Facebook is a great way to keep up with friends, and Twitter is an amazing tool to find out about the goings on in the world with up to the SECOND coverage. But using your voice to share your passion and your beliefs, is one of the best ways to use social media. Our young people’s voices are as important as ours to be shared on social media. And mine, mine was as important as an actor’s.

I write to you now and am happy to say I have recently passed the 200 tweet mark on my twitter account. Not all of them have been educational, some have just been funny. But my 67 follower family seems to be responding, and I can’t wait to see how many I can reach from here.

by:  Taylor Wilson, Communications Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, May 4, 2013

We are coming to your town!

May is a special month for the SC Campaign because this is the month we honor National Teen Pregnancy Prevention. In 2013, we will be coming to your community during our May Road Show. Take a look below at just some of the events that will be happening over the next two weeks!

May 6th, 2013
12:00-2:00PM Cherokee County Lunch & Learn
                         Sagebrush Steakhouse
                         1541 West Floyd Baker Blvd.
                         Gaffney, SC 29341

3:30PM            Union County Youth Summit
                         McBeth Baptist Church
                         105 Lawson Ave.
                         Union, SC 29379

May 7th, 2013
8:30-10:00AM York County Community Breakfast
                          Thi's Place on Main
                          210 E. Main Street
                          Rock Hill, SC 29730
12:00-2:00PM  Marlboro County Lunch & Learn
                          Genesis Family Restaurant
                          516 Cheraw St.
                          Bennettsville, SC 29512

May 11th, 2013
10:00AM          Alledale CooterFest Parade 2013
                          Allendale, SC

May 14th, 2013
8:00-10:00AM Breakfast with Leaders in Greenville
                          One Liberty Square Building
                          17th Floor
                          Greenville, SC 29601

4:30PM            SC Legislative Black Caucus
                         427 Blatt Building
                         Columbia, SC

May 17th, 2013
4:00-5:30PM Conway Library National Quiz
                       801 Main St.
                       Conway, SC 29526

6:30-8:30PM Bowl-a-thon
                      1732 Bush River Rd.
                      Columbia, SC 29210

May 18th, 2013
8:00AM         Walk-a-thon
                       710 W. Dekalb St.
                       Camden, SC

Stay tuned to your local radio and TV stations for appearances by SC Campaign CEO Forrest Alton, along with stories about other local events for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. We hope to see you around YOUR town soon!

For more information, click here to visit our May Road Show webpage.

by: South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy