Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Life of a Gal in Her Mid-20s

I have officially reached that point of my life where I get excited to browse vacuum cleaners online, I have to pay my own medical bills and I actually own a wine rack. Although this fairly new phase of adulthood is exciting, it also puts things in perspective. Where has all the time gone?! It seems like only yesterday when I was requesting allowance from my parents, getting rides to friends’ houses and didn't even know the meaning of the words “car insurance.” With this chapter of my life also brings marriage, buying homes and babies. Several of my close friends are getting married and having babies, and sometimes it makes me wonder, “Am I behind the trend?” I am not even in a relationship, let alone thinking about marriage, homes and babies! I even get pressure from my grandmother, who recently wrote me the following email: 
My grandmother and I

“You make us so proud. You are finished school, have a nice apartment, good friends there and a job that will provide for your comforts. Now you can go and find a love. Is that too much to ask? Just be sure he is someone you want to be a father to your children.”

Now, I know my grandparents are totally supportive of me and only want me to be happy, but I can’t help but feel a little bit of pressure to get married and start popping out babies. I am confident that the right guy will come along and things will fall in place just like they’re meant to, and on my own time. I feel like so many of our youth face pressures to be in relationships and even to start families when they are not even finished figuring out who they are. I think it is important to first establish ourselves independently before finding your other half. 

Although I am overjoyed for my friends who are getting married and starting their families, I am also in a very exciting time of my life, my mid-20s, where I am still getting to know myself and learning what type of person will compliment me best in a lasting, healthy relationship. I want to find someone who is able to walk on his own, but chooses to walk beside me, not because he has to, but because he doesn't want to walk beside anyone else.

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Newest Accessory from the Kardashian Kollection: KIDS

Since when did kids become accessories?? Since when was it okay to take your baby on a stroll down Ocean Boulevard while you cruise for a hook up at 11:00pm?? And finally, I will jump on this grenade, since when it is okay to name your child something that sounds like an airline (side eye directed toward Kanye and Kim)??

This is the first blog that I am writing as an expecting mother so maybe I am just more sensitive or maybe it is the overdose of cookies and milk I had as a 3:00am snack, but I am appalled at some of the so-called “maternal behaviors” that I have seen recently. I am only carrying an 18-week fetus, and I am already thinking of how I am going to prepare my son to live a long, healthy and productive life. My husband and I have been married 4 ½ years and wanting to wait to have children to make sure we were fully prepared (or at least as prepared as possible). We have already had conversations about discipline, religion, schedules, child care and most importantly boy’s fashion! However, for some moms it just seems like their kid is an accessory, like a scrunchy hair tie in the 80s or a colorful pair of chucks. For some moms, they use their kid as a talking point or way to approach possible hook up partners. For many young moms, they simply do not know better because they never had a healthy relationship with their own mother. Many young moms struggle with the idea that they now have someone that depends on them for love and protection, and they can no longer just do what they want, when they want it.

This is why it is so important to be PREPARED for children and wait to make sure that you and your partner are ready. This is why young people need to see healthy relationships with adults and know that there is so much more to raising a child than just having sex and “oops I’m pregnant.” As adults, we must educate teens about what it takes to be parents and the sacrifices that have to be made to be good parents. As parents, we have to show kids that they are worth our time and effort, so that means that moms should say goodbye to the clubbing clothes and wild nights and instead spend time at home with their kids.

I often remember this quote when thinking about our influence on teens, “catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will walk for miles to watch you burn” (John Wesley). This sums up the impact that an adult has on a child; if the adult burns with enthusiasm, love, patience and understanding then young people will look up to that adult and strive to emulate his or her qualities. However, if an adult burns with negativity, selfishness, judgment and apathy then young people will only strive to have those same qualities. 

So to end this soapbox rant: quit using your kid to cruise for a hook up and instead cruise to the playground to spend some quality time with your child, quit using your kid as an accessory and instead buy yourself a cute handbag (cause that is the only accessory that really matters anyway) and put your kid first in everything because they will only go as far as you make them believe they can go.

As for me, I will continue to panic for the next five months about what I can do to make sure my son never gets arrested or ends up on “Intervention.” Please send lots of milk and cookies to get me through!

by Sarah Kershner, Project Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How time flies...

Time is an interesting thing. When you are waiting at a doctor’s office, the minutes tick by with a painfully slow cadence. Full weekends, however, pass in the blink of an eye, and Monday is right back in your face. Time is funny like that, slowing down and speeding up, it seems, whenever it fancies.

I started at the SC Campaign almost six years ago, in August 2007. I had graduated from USC that May and had been looking for a position when I interviewed with Polly Edwards Padgett on what I am sure was the hottest day of the year. When I got to the interview, in my polished three-piece suit, I was water logged. I continued the interview process the following week, dressed more appropriately for the weather, until my hair clip exploded out of my hair mid-interview, much to the shock of both Polly and Erin Johnson. I was sure, after melting at my first interview, and having exploding hair in my second interview, that they would not be calling me back. Much to my delight, they did! And after working with them for six years, they can tell you that stories like this are more normal than not with me!

I started at the SC Campaign when there were about 12 other employees. I shared an office with Kim Butler, and I was scared to death. People there are so smart and so good at what they do. It was intimidating and exciting at the same time. I worked as the Technical Assistance Associate with Polly and Chris Rollison, both of whom were newlyweds and were working hard on creating relationships and helping programs throughout our state.

As our agency grew, we started to add on fantastic new people to lead interesting new projects. Sarah (Huggins) Kershner joined our team to work on evaluation. Dana Becker joined our team to work in Spartanburg. Shannon Flynn became our Director of Evaluation. We were growing by leaps and bounds. And still, every person who joined the team was incredible! I felt so lucky to have the opportunities to be a part of an agency that could attract this type of talent!

Over the years, our agency changed shape; we added a Finance Director, Melanie Foltz, and our Accounting Specialist, Tameka Bell. We saw opportunities to educate the next generation of professionals through different interns and graduate assistants who were able to stay on as full time because they were so amazing, like Jordan Slice and Andrea Heyward. We struggled with legislative decisions that meant big, sometimes heartbreaking decisions for our community partners, but we also had successes, like bringing two large-scale federal grants to our state.

After two years as the Technical Assistance Associate, I was able to move into the role of Grant Specialist. I was in charge of the grant process and grant funding to our community partners and was able to get to know the “on-the-ground” folks around our state very well. With each site visit, I was empowered by their good work. Stacie Thompson in Anderson, Shedron Williams in Hampton, Eartha Cunningham in Colleton, Ms. Josephine McBeth in Union…I could name more, but this blog would be eight pages long. Each time I met a new person working on teen pregnancy prevention, my heart would swell to the point of bursting. These are the people that make such a difference to young people, and they did so because they wanted to, not because they had to.

Over the years, I was also able to work on new, innovative projects like our initiatives with clinics and colleges. I learned from people like Beth DeSantis and Stephanie Friesner that it takes dedication to make change. And that change, although hard, can reap rewards beyond measure for young people. I worked with colleges like USC Beaufort, USC Spartanburg and College of Charleston that were dedicated to providing access to services they needed, even if the school couldn’t provide them on-site. I found my “sister from another mister” in Rena Dixon as she joined the SC Campaign team. Again, working with these people made me realize how much dedication is needed to see a difference in the world. They were making a difference.

When I moved into my role as Communications Specialist (which, incidentally, is a better fit for my marketing degree), I was able to work with folks like Communications  Director Cayci Banks and co-workers Kim Wicker (former Newberry community person) and long-standing Ms. Carol Singletary (a veteran of the Department of Social Services and 40-year advocate of teen pregnancy prevention). I thought after four years in the agency, I couldn’t really learn any more. And I was wrong. That’s the thing about an agency like SC Campaign. You can never learn all that anyone there has to teach you, but you have to be willing to try. I would listen to Ms. Carol talk about bringing the first funding for teen pregnancy prevention to the SC Campaign. I would listen to Kim talk about her experiences on the ground working with young people in Newberry. Many times, Cayci would have to talk me down from a graphic design disaster where I felt it would be more functional to throw my computer out of the window than try to start again! Our brainstorming sessions were legendary, and our abilities to get a lot done with few resources are still impressive.

And then, like that, I am looking at six years of my life. There are so many more stories about my time at the SC Campaign that would make this into a book instead of a blog, like the time I got maced by the automatic air freshener in our bathroom or the time I got lost heading to Spartanburg and ended up in Georgia. Or the time…well, there are a lot of those.

I have been with these people for the last six years. I have seen engagement rings, wedding photos, new baby announcements and I have signed sympathy cards. I have passed around enough birthday cards (“I DO NOT HAVE THE FOLDER, MS. GREER! Oh, wait…”), that I may have a slight hand cramp for life. And I have seen our agency band together to do good work, to save jobs and to save teens.

But now, the time has come to move on. I will take every ounce of the inspiration that the people I worked with daily were so kind to give me, and grow, both professionally and personally. My next adventure is sure to be a change. I am leaving to become a director, which will be a first for me. And I am leaving to work with animals instead of people, so, my talking points have to change a bit. But the lessons learned about being dedicated and being a team player don’t change. I am taking everything I have learned about what makes people great and carrying that on.
To those I have worked with, at the SC Campaign and through the SC Campaign, I love you all. And I will never forget the lessons you have all taught me. I will pass them on, pay it forward and make you proud. I promise. 

By: Taylor Wilson, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Supporter and former Communications Specialist

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hey Mississippi, Over Here!

According to an article posted on Reuters, “Mississippi will require doctors to collect umbilical cord blood from babies born to some young mothers, under a new law intended to identify statutory rapists and reduce the state's rate of teenage pregnancy, the highest in the country. Under the law, doctors and midwives will be expected to retrieve umbilical cord blood in cases where the father is 21 or older or when the baby's paternity is in question.” 

So I thought I had heard it all and then comes Mississippi!  Don’t get me wrong, in true cases of statutory rape, I agree.   It is a criminal act in South Carolina as well and should be handled by law enforcement.  Solicitor's Offices willing to crack down on statutory rape is a good thing and necessary to change social norms over the next decade.   

My problem is that I think asking the medical community to step in is crossing a line.  Years of research (and experience) have show that teens don't always trust the medical community and seek their care only if confidential.   You’re asking the medical community to cross into a law enforcement role and break their doctor-patient confidentiality.  This idea is potentially costly, not research proven, and  could have unforeseen negative consequences. And after all this time, energy and money, can you imagine the cost of lawyers, storing cord blood (I couldn’t even afford it for my own girls), prison, etc.  and for what?  The baby is here, you did not prevent a pregnancy.  Therefore, please stop referring to this as an “effort to reduce teen pregnancy.” The bigger question of the day is: “Mississippi, what are you doing for the 67.7% of girls getting pregnant in your state that DON’T fall into this law?”

If you are picking up on some “tension” in my blog, you’re right. We often want to “blame” teen pregnancy on someone.  Some want to “blame”  leaders, politicians, parents and every adult in the state.  Stop making teens victims and empower and equip them to become responsible adults.    Mississippi, this won’t cost you a penny.  My advice,

1.    Read Emerging Answers by Dr. Douglas Kirby (20 years worth of experience from the best in the business).

2.    Look at your data, because it tells a clear story.  Your youth are sexually active, not using contraception and most of your pregnancies are to 18-19 year olds.
a.    14.8% of these students reported using birth control
b.    Repeat pregnancies among 15-17 year olds, 11%; among 18-19 year olds 27%
c.    Teen pregnancy rate among 15-17 year olds 30.6; 18-19 year olds 88.7
d.    67.7% of your teen pregnancies were to 18-19 year olds. 

3.    Put your money in a multi-faceted approach that respects teenagers and helps them become responsible adults.  Wouldn’t you prefer they never go out with a 21 year old to begin with?
a.  Start evidence-based programs that build refusal skills in middle school, like Draw the Line, and for those siblings of teen parents or drop outs, provide youth development opportunities like Teen Outreach Programs.
b.  Get rid of shamed-based abstinence education. 
c.   Require sex education in high school.

d.   Get faith communities and parents on the same page with school programming.  We want all our kids to be abstinent, but if you decide to have sex, respect yourself and your partner and use condoms and contraception. 

4.    The medical community’s role is medicine.  Let them do what they are trained to do.
a.    The BIGGIE, get your pencil…….GET YOUR CLINICS OFF THEIR BUTTS!!  Publically funded Title X clinics in your state are failing your teens. 
b.    Work with HHS and Medicaid to increase reimbursements for LARC (Long Acting Reversible Contraception) and LARC in hospital care (before teen moms leave the hospital).
c.    Work with the medical community (family medicine, ERs, pediatrics) to screen all teen patients for their intentions to have a baby and needs for contraception. 
d.    Teen Clinics are necessary in your communities with highest rates.

5.    Don’t ignore your 18-19 year olds. 
a.    Where are they?  Two-year colleges, job training programs, in the work force. Go to them and promote contraception and where to get it free. 
b.    Get them access to reproductive health care that provides birth control counseling.

6.    Most importantly, bring your youth to the table and have them identify solutions. 
We all mean well but at the end of the day we have to all focus on where we will have the greatest impact on teen pregnancy; hit the low-hanging fruit and limit waste of time and money. 

by Polly Edwards Padgett, Senior Program Advisor, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It is HOT in Columbia, just in time for Summer Institute 2013!

Famously Hot Columbia, site of this year's Summer Institute, has a totally different meaning when you are 8 months pregnant. Hot does not begin to describe the way it feels outside when you are carrying around 25 extra pounds!

Not sure I really thought this August due date thing through - I definitely didn't take into consideration the heat that I would endure. I am already melting and I have many weeks to go and many pounds to gain.

Being 8 months pregnant is also very interesting when you have a 3.5 year old at home. I wasn't sure how he was going to react - what he would think about my expanding belly and what he will think when there is a brand new baby girl in our house. Although I still can't predict how he will handle this huge transition once she is here, I can report that he has been so incredibly sweet - and funny - with the big belly. Each day when I get home from work he wants to say hey to his baby sister and lay his head on my tummy. He likes to use it as a pillow and also is adorable when he wants baby sister to play games with us. For Candy Land, she even gets her own player. But my favorite story is the night Lucas and my husband Charlie were playing in a fort pretending to hide from monsters. When he heard me coming he screamed to Charlie, "quick, lets hide; the big bellied alien monster is coming." Yes, that's right folks, he called me the "big bellied alien monster". I don't think me and my husband have ever laughed so hard. It was suc

h a priceless moment.

While we are all excited about our new addition and can't wait for her to get here, I am also really enjoying my time watching Lucas go through this pregnancy experience with us. To date, he hasn't actually asked how she got in there, which kind of surprises me, but I bet that question will come sooner or later. That will be another blog for another day!

Join us at Summer Institute on Thursday and Friday, June 13th and 14th, to learn, network, and be inspired! We hope to see you there! Info can be found here

by: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Changing the Picture…

When we think of teen pregnancy, the silhouette of a girl with a low ponytail and a round belly typically flashes through our minds. We get caught up in the idea of an adolescent female struggling through nine months of pregnancy and then raising a child while still a child herself. Maybe we feel bad for her. Maybe we judge her for having had sex in the first place – for not using protection and allowing herself to end up in this situation.  Maybe we relate to her – having been in her shoes ourselves. Whatever our thoughts or feelings, what we most often do NOT take into consideration is the male involved in this pregnancy.

Héctor Sánchez-Flores
We all know that a pregnancy requires both egg and sperm, both a female and male. So why do we tend to ignore our young men when we talk about teen pregnancy? Our males need to learn refusal skills – as do our females. Our males need to learn negotiation skills – as do our females. Our males need to learn how to use a condom correctly – as do our females. Our males need to understand what a healthy relationship looks like – as do our females. When we implement evidence-based programs, we often teach these skills to males and females together. But what if our young men could benefit from outreach and programs that are specifically geared to meet their unique needs? What if our young men are tired of being used as the example of the “predator” in every role play and need someone to talk to them about how to handle pressure from their girlfriend? What if our young men, so many from
Eric Rowles
single- parent families where mom is raising them, need to spend time with a man who has been in their shoes and can relate to what they’re going through – who can teach them that having sex is more than adding a notch to the belt and that becoming a dad is not the only way to leave a legacy?
On Friday of this year’s Summer Institute, we’ll have several opportunities to more closely examine our
Charles Weathers
work with males. We’ll start with the chance to have breakfast with Héctor Sánchez-Flores, Executive Director of the National Compadres Network. Hector’s experience working with males includes addressing issues from rites of passage to gangs to domestic violence and more. He understands that males need a unique approach when we talk about pregnancy prevention. His breakfast will include a focus on community engagement, and we can't forget males are an important part of the community. In He Said/She Said: Perspectives from Youth of Color on Friday morning, Charlotte Galloway and I will compare some of the differences in attitudes between males and females which can help us understand how to better address males themselves. Eric Rowles will facilitate Stand Up, Man Up: Reaching & Teaching Young Men in 2013 to help equip us with
Vince Ford
skills to effectively work with males in today’s generation. Our closing panel will be focused on working with males as we hear from a variety of professionals including Vince Ford, Chief Community Health Services Officer for Palmetto Health; Charles Weathers, Founder and CEO of The Weathers Group; Eric Rowles, President and CEO of Leading to Change; and Héctor Sánchez-Flores of the National Compadres Network. This dynamic group of men will hopefully inspire us and motivate us to rethink how we view teen pregnancy by shifting the image in our minds of that round- belly silhouette to a full-color photo of a guy and girl who are BOTH experiencing a pregnancy and its impact on their lives individually and togethe

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Inspire South Carolina Everyday!

So, I am sure by now you have seen the Road Show Shenanigans blog and know how much fun we as a staff all had during our May 2013 travels around the state! But I wanted to share with you all a very special opportunity I was lucky enough to have on my trips for Road Show.

As the runner of, I get the opportunity to present at a lot of youth events. I love being in front of teens, and their energy and enthusiasm can be contagious! So when we started to plan youth events for this year, I was excited to have the opportunity to be back in front of over 2,500 teens in just under two weeks. But this year, we had the opportunity to bring in two amazing individuals with ties to our state to speak to our young people.

First up on our tour was Dwayne Harper.  Mr. Harper is from Orangeburg, SC and graduated from South Carolina State University. He was drafted to play in the big leagues, going to the NFL, playing for teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers as a cornerback, taking on some of the biggest names in NFL quarterback history, like Dan Marino and John Elway.  He even had a chance to play in Super Bowl 29. But once he retired from his NFL career, he came back home, to coach teens and to help them make better decisions.  We brought Mr. Harper along for some of our Road Show stops at Midlands-area schools, and he shared insight about goal setting, the importance of good decision making to reach your goals, and how you can reach your goals by being your best self every day.  He also made time to answer some questions our young people had, which included some sports questions, but also some life questions, like how he, as a single parent, deals with the stress of raising a teen in the world today.  His speaking events were inspiring and enriching, and we were grateful he was willing to join us on our journey!

The following week, I had the pleasure of escorting the current reigning Miss South Carolina USA, Megan Pinckney, down to the low country to visit with schools so she could share her platform about character and why having character and making good decisions is paramount to seeing your dreams become reality.  She was willing to share not only her crown and sash with the young people, as well as her heart, providing them with stories about her own failures and how her character helped pull her through them to get up and try again.  The young people were able to ask her about the process she had to go through to become Miss South Carolina USA (and her former title, Miss South Carolina Teen USA), how she had to prepare, what she was looking forward to most about the pageant, etc. She even made time out to pose in photos for some teens at the events. After our time spent together, I can say with enthusiasm and sincerity that Megan Pinckney will make every South Carolinian proud during the Miss USA pageant on June 16th and would make an amazing Miss USA. (You can vote for her to help her bring home the crown by visiting here!)

Overall, I had a wonderful time with our speakers and the teens, learning just as much as the young people as we listened to the inspirational South Carolinians in front of us.  I was inspired to do my best to become an asset that my state could be proud of, and I am sure the young people were as well!

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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trusting Those Who Care

Trust. It’s one of those words we throw around that some people don’t take very seriously anymore. Call me a cynic, because I've been through my fair share of breakups where trust was involved, but trust is one of those things that we should never take for granted, and the more we get hurt, the more we seem to lose trust. I have learned that in scenarios when you aren’t sure WHO to trust, it is important to listen to the opinions and insight of those who love you unconditionally – close friends, family, even your pets.  If your closest friends and family members don’t get a good vibe from the person you are seeing, then chances are, there is something wrong.

Although we can’t always depend on the advice of our friends and family, but have you ever heard that love is blind? We may want to see past all of our partner’s flaws because “I love him/her,” but sometimes, we need people on the outside to give us another perspective and open our eyes to things that we may not have seen or wanted to see.  On the flip side, it is important for friends and family to be open and honest with you about a toxic relationship you may be in or warning signs you might not have been aware of. Although we’d like to think we can trust our partner, it is more important to trust what those around us are saying, those who have been in our lives for a substantial amount of time and know us well.

When it comes to our young people, we need to cultivate trust with them so they are willing to come to us when they have a problem. We also need to promote a positive level of self awareness so that they can trust their own instincts when it comes to a questionable relationship or situation. We need to learn to trust those around us to help us make good decisions so that our young people can follow in our footsteps of healthy decision making.

by Sara Lamberson, Health Communications Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy