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 Pok√©mon 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