Saturday, August 31, 2013

Where Were You 50 Years Ago Today?

As an 11-year-old 50 years ago my family watched the events of the March on Washington on television.  I remember how badly I wanted to be in Washington D.C. as a participant in the March.  I am sure most of my peers did not have the “March” on their radar, but as a child raised in a family who believed and fought for the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for all, it was as if there was nowhere else I should have been. The turbulent years of the 60s saw good things, people standing up for what they knew to be right, and great pain, the assassination of three leaders fighting for all peoples to enjoy their God given rights, President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Unfortunately, the struggle still continues. Yes, I will acknowledge that great strides have been made, but regrettably as we take two steps forward, there are forces trying to push “us” three steps backward. The “us” is anyone considered to be different, black, women, Hispanic and LGBTQ.

Let’s fast forward 45 years after the “March” to the 2008 election of the first African American president, President Barack Obama. The truth about who we are as a nation became a reality. It was hard to hide the hate and bigotry that was buried in the bowels of the souls of people who believe that only “white” men could and should be President of this great nation; a nation that our forefathers  built with their blood sweat and tears. People both black and white, Jews and Gentiles, died so that all people could be free, Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Viola G. Liuzzo. Let’s not forget another event of 50 years ago, four little girls whose only crime was going to Sunday school on September 15, 1963 and died because of bigotry and hate, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley (click here for 1963 article).

I know the people of this country will continue to move forward to ensure that those who died did so that we could be free and have the rights the Constitution affords us realized. This country belongs to all of us, so as the Supreme Court and Southern Governors and legislatures try to take away what we worked for, it makes the resolve of the people stronger.

Visit for more information on these historical events.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why It Hurts When Miley Twerks

It’s been two days since Miley Cyrus shocked millions of TV viewers and nearly broke Twitter when she ‘twerked’ away the final remnants of her beloved Disney role of Hannah Montana. Miley believes that she is finally free from the restraints of being a child star. She is an adult, and she can now do whatever she wants, whenever she wants without having to answer to anyone. With this newfound freedom, Miley believes that she can now twerk, tongue hanging out ala Gene Simmons, without a care in the world. After all, this is a free country and free speech is something that we all enjoy as American citizens, including Miley Cyrus. But what Miley failed to factor in was the backlash that would be generated from this performance and how her beloved pre-twerk fans would view her now. As Hannah Montana, Miley had a fan base comprised of very impressionable girls and preteens who loved her, wanting to be just like her. They lived vicariously through her; an adorable and talented young lady with a solid family structure. According to Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana is dead. As of Sunday night on MTV’s Video Music Awards that death was confirmed...D.O.A.

Now that we have seen the image that Miley is trying to adopt, some have tried to make excuses for her behavior. Teenage angst? Growing pains? Some have even gone on to blame her parents and the Disney Channel for not helping their former stars to transition into adult careers. As parents, the question you may ask yourself is: “Why does it hurt to see Miley twerk?” The answer is quite simple. Those of you who have children that grew up on Hannah Montana are dealing with impact that lost innocence has on a parent when you finally realize that your ‘baby’ is not a baby anymore. If your child was a Hannah Montana fan, then they have now hit puberty or are pretty close, which means you are very close to having ‘the talk’ with him or her. Your child will be exposed to adult situations and adult themes that you have to prepare them for, and that is scary. What hurts the most about Miley is that she was supposed to be different. She isn’t Lindsay Lohan or Brittany Spears. She was expected to transcend all of the riff raff and “make it,” so to speak.

The reality of Miley’s new image is that it’s nothing new. She is following the trajectory of many young people, having fun without worrying about the consequences of her actions. The only difference is that she’s in the spotlight, making it look so, so, so much worse. Some may have found her performance to be disturbing or inappropriate, but Miley is a young lady who must find her own way, whatever road she takes is on her. All of her mistakes and missteps are on public display, open for scrutiny in the court of public opinion where she is being crucified. If all of the media reports are true, then Miley simply doesn’t care what people think. As parents, what you have to do
is make sure that message isn’t missed with YOUR child. Whatever mistakes they make will ultimately affect them and you can’t start a fire without being burned. Miley Cyrus is a real human being, flaws and all. Hannah Montana wasn’t real and that’s the reality that we are faced with. We have to have an open dialogue with our youth about how they should behave and explain to them that there is a time and place to express oneself, whether it’s singing, painting, and yes, twerking. There will come a time when our children shed their bibs and throw their pacifiers away and proclaim, “I’m a big kid now!” Before that time comes, we can equip ourselves with as many resources as possible to make sure we are able to support our young people as they transition into young adulthood.

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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sky is NOT the Limit!

One of my favorite quotes by Paul Brandt is, “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit, when there are footprints on the moon.”  I challenge all young people to set goals for their lives that exceed all limits and expectations.  I am a firm believer that you can do anything that you put your mind to as long as you apply yourself, remain resilient and persevere to overcome any roadblocks or obstacles you are faced with.  If you see it, you can achieve it, so there is something beyond the sky.  If you say the “sky’s the limit” then you have created a boundary that limits your desire to achieve the goals you have set for your life.  Everyone’s vision is different.  Someone may look in the sky and see stars, while someone else sees the moon and yet another person will see only darkness.  The potential to achieve is in the eye of the viewer, so do not set minimal goals for yourself when there are footprints on the moon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Would You Tell Your Daughter It's Okay?

Anyone who is hooked on the reality television show “Basketball Wives” should know about the Evelyn/Chad drama.  If not, here’s what going on…after Evelyn found a condom wrapper and a receipt showing that he bought condoms, she confronted Chad.  During the argument, Chad head butted Evelyn, leaving an open gash on her forehead.  Last night, on the first episode of the season, Evelyn’s perspective on the situation was aired.  There were so many messages portrayed about this situation, and it just makes me wonder how our youth are viewing these messages.  To change how someone thinks first starts at home, and this is a big topic that should be discussed.

What hurt me the most, while watching last night, was the advice Tami gave Evelyn: try to make the relationship work.  Tami stated that she think people deserve second chances and that sometimes it takes individuals to go through things to become the person they need to become.  Shaunie asked Tami how she knows he wouldn't do it again, and Tami answered with you don’t know but you have to step out on faith.  Shaunie also asked Tami if she would give her daughter that same advice, and she said yes. She even said the same thing about the situation between Chris Brown and Rihanna.  Click here for a video of the conversation.

While I understand the point she was trying to make about men learning after seeing that their actions have bigger consequences,  and that things might be different the next time around because the abuser can understand that his actions will not be tolerated.  However, the keyword in that last sentence is “might.”  On the other hand, the message sent can also say, “she’s gone for now but she will always come back.”

It seems that Tami’s take on this issue is that you never know until you go back and try again.  This is always a great attitude to have, but in certain situations it could set you up for failure.  This is why I wonder what kind of messages we are sending to our youth who are looking up to these women for guidance on how to live their lives.

According to the National Resource Center for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, (SC Coalition against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault).  This is a message that these teens, or any other teen, should not hear and take to heart.  Sadly, they do and may end up in similar situations that they were in before.

Setting good examples for our youth is a start for them to live better lives.  These examples, unfortunately, many times come from the media.  Too often, our youth wish to live the lives of the characters they see on television. Tami’s reasoning was only one sided of what could happen.  I would encourage teachers, parents and other adults who are role models to teach the other side of what could happen from the Basketball Wives’ conversation.  We want our youth to mimic the positive decisions we make in our lives, not just what they see in the media.

To find out more information about the show, click here.

More information on teen dating violence can also be found here.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Their Stories...

Last week I had the privilege of spending three crazy days at a retreat with three teams of young people. Each team represented one of three counties that are part of the community-wide teen pregnancy prevention initiative currently funded by the Centers for Disease Control. This is the second year we've had this gathering, but the focus was much different this time around. Last year we talked a lot about birth control, HIV and sexually transmitted infections – basic nuts and bolts of pregnancy prevention work. The youth team coordinators decided that the focus this year needed to be a bit different. Our young people are learning those basics but have still been hesitant to be open about their personal experiences with teen pregnancy and why this issue is so important to them. And is it any wonder considering the fact that it’s not socially acceptable to TALK about sex even though we can certainly hear about it on TV, in the movies and in every song on top 20 radio stations?

This year we brought in an organization called Leading to Change (shout out to the LTC Rock Starz! that worked with the young people on the development of each of their personal stories. Over 24 hours, they drafted, crafted, previewed and then presented some of the most amazing presentations I've ever heard. In a room with 29 young people between the ages of 14 and 21, I saw enough commitment, passion and compassion to change the world when it comes to teen pregnancy. And they’re bringing this commitment, passion and compassion to a community near you!

Why was this experience so significant for me? Beyond lack of sleep, the constant exposure to “twerking” and Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and some amazing bonding time, I realized yet again how powerful the experiences of our young people are when we 1) ask them to share those experiences, 2) really listen to what they say and 3) allow their experiences and personal stories to change how we work with young people. Once the 29th teen had finished sharing and the Kleenex box was empty, I know I was changed.

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Students Are Back In Town

One thing that's fun about living in a college town is watching all the fresh faces invade my favorite coffee shop, sharing the sales racks on Devine Street with a bubbly mob of young ladies searching for a sorority rush dress and overhearing parents discuss the hotel breakfast as they hold back the tears of letting their babies grow up.

Fall is a pivotal time for these incoming freshmen. They're migrating into adulthood and paving their path to self discovery.

While the next four (or five...) years are packed with exciting new opportunities, these youth will be faced with some tough decisions: should they go with all their friends to that late-night party or stay in to study for their midterm? Social desires and academic demands will weigh heavy on both ends of the decision scale.
As someone who is not too many years past these decisions, I assure you—they're tough. Sometimes you let the fun side of the scale outweigh the academic side.

Hey, we're all human!

We've also got to remember that older teens still need a trusted adult to have those tough conversations. Three in four births to teens in South Carolina in 2011 were among older teens (age 18-19). Those are the same teens who are just starting on their path to self discovery. They deserve the same future as every other teen, but teen parents are still far less likely to graduate from college.

I share this with you as encouragement to continue to have these conversations with the older teens in your life. Whether it's your son or daughter, sister or brother, cousin, friend or neighbor—just talk! Be there for them and encourage them to make smart decisions.

And while you’re at it, send them over to and for answers to all their questions about sex, birth control and healthy relationships. They can even sign up for birth control reminder texts, and follow them on Instagram to stay in the loop!

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

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If You Build Them Up, They’ll Stand Strong

For the most part, I don’t remember paying attention to my looks until middle school.  Yes, we had mirrors in my house, but I never spent much time standing in front of them.  I’d left fifth grade on a high.  Our graduation party was held at a recreation center and the entire fifth grade class bounced in unison to Kris Kross’s “Jump.”  That summer in 1992, my neighbor and I listened to Totally Crossed Out on our tape decks and bought fresh Kris Kross t-shirts at the mall.  I knew exactly what I was going to wear on the first day of class.

When that cool September morning arrived, I wandered into the gym of my new school with hundreds of other students in search of my home room teacher.  I observed the crowd, uncertain about the new faces, but confident in my black Kris Kross t-shirt and jeans.  Out of nowhere, a boy I’d never met said to me, “Kris Kross isn’t cool anymore.  Nobody likes them.”  Shocked, I gave a blank stare.  This was the first time a boy had ever criticized my clothing.

I never wore that t-shirt again.  Sadly, he was not the last male to provide his unsolicited opinion about my looks or attire.  In high school, one guy told me he did not like my custom printed Airwalk t-shirt, while another called me white-washed for wearing plaid pants.  I can’t even remember how many times a strange man has demanded I smile as I pass him on the street.

Why do some men think it’s okay to talk at women and girls?  Women and girls are not accessories, and it is dangerous to treat us as such.

Navigating middle and high school is filled with discomfort without uninvited comments about one’s appearance.  So, as we spend the final days of summer with our daughters, nieces, cousins and friends, let’s do more than tell them they’re beautiful.  Let’s tell them they are curious, quick-witted, funny, strong, brave, thoughtful, silly, lovable young women.  Let’s challenge, encourage and guide them.  Confident young people are more likely to stand up for themselves and make good decisions in difficult situations.  Let’s equip them to do so.

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

“Summer Lovin’…had me a blast”

With the summer heat comes hormones, raging hormones. Young people are out of school and oftentimes find themselves with more free time and less supervision, which is the perfect cocktail for a good ole’ summer fling.

I remember the Summer of 1997 because my mother implemented the infamous list known around my neighborhood as “ ’97 rules.” These rules included “no boys upstairs, no boys and girls alone, no smacky-facing (aka kissing) boys” and of course “put your dishes in the dishwasher” and “sweep the kitchen floor.” I was a middle school girl with a sudden interest in boys and my mother worked tirelessly to instill a sense of self-worth and respect in myself so I wouldn’t be tempted by early sexual initiation. All too often young people don’t have anyone to talk to about their feelings and desires, which ultimately leads them to “trying out” those desires leading to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. This isn’t to say that a young person’s feelings are not valid because as someone who met their soul mate at 15 years old, I do believe a young person can experience love. However, young people need adults in their lives to help guide their decisions to ensure that they are engaging in behaviors that are safe, healthy and will contribute to their future goals.

Particularly during the summer months, when a young person is out of school, they may be yearning for someone to talk to about their feelings. It is up to us as adults to provide a listening ear and nonjudgmental response. To a developing young person feeling a surge in hormones, the summer redefines experiences that used to be completely benign, such as the first sight of tan lines, bikinis or shirtless basketball games. It is our responsibility as adults to talk to the young people in our lives, listen to their stories of summer love and to help them make decisions that are safe and healthy.

I strongly believe that my mom’s ’97 rules were a way of making sure that we stayed safe, healthy and looked toward our future…even if I did steal a few kisses from boys that summer and I rarely ever swept the kitchen floor.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Not Right Now...I'm Only 26!

If you read my last blog post, The Life of a Gal in Her Mid-20s, then you understand my position on taking my time in finding "the one," getting married and having kids. As a follow up (and a "borrowed" idea from a co-worker), I wanted to mix it up a little bit and tell my story with photos instead. Below, you will see some of my greatest achievements, events and just plain old life happenings that would have been very difficult for me to have accomplished or taken part in if I were a mom at this point in my life. 

December 2009: Graduated with my bachelor's degree 
in journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)

August 2010: Shipped off to Vicksburg, MS for a year-long 
AmeriCorps NCCC program and worked with non-profit 
organizations all across the southern region of the U.S.

August 2011: Was accepted to University of South Carolina (USC) 
to pursue my master's degree and joined the USC Disc Golf Team

March 2013: Traveled to California for the first time ever to see 
the first of my best girlfriends from high school tie the knot

April 2012 and April 2013: Competed in two National Collegiate
Disc Golf Championships as a part of the USC Disc Golf Team
and won the Women's Individual title in 2012

May 2013: Graduated with my master's degree in mass communications 
and a graduate certificate in health communications
I am in no way saying that any of these things would be impossible for a parenting young person to accomplish, but I believe that it would have been more difficult for me to live out my dreams if I had to breast feed, change diapers and support a child along the way. We should be continuing to empower our young people to live out their dreams and put themselves first until they are ready to be in stable, healthy relationships and think about having a baby.

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