Monday, July 21, 2014

Giving teens some space

It’s no secret that the Hartsville Boys and Girls club does great work, but the Teen Center needed a serious face lift. So when the Midlands class of the spring 2014 Diversity Leadership Institute was choosing a project to work on in Hartsville, S.C., the Boys and Girls club seemed like an obvious choice.

“We had three people in our group from the Darlington/Hartsville community and another who grew up there,” said Doug Taylor, Chief Program Officer at the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and a member of the Midlands class. “It was a known need in the community that the Boys and Girls Club building was not in good shape.”

Over the past three months the group has spent time transforming the drab brown and white Teen Center into the ultimate teen hangout. The space is now an inviting bright blue, with new couches, a TV, and even study stations for the teens to comfortably do their homework. The teens will get their first peek at their new space on Thursday, when the teen center will hold its grand reopening.

But the Boys and Girls Club is about more than just giving teens a place to be. It’s about preparing our young people to be leaders in their community.

“Programs like this are so important because kids need access to caring adults when parents or guardians are at work,” Taylor said. “They need to be engaged and not just sitting around wasting time.”

That’s why Taylor’s group also made sure the Boys and Girls club staff had the resources they need to educate the teens on important life skills.

For Taylor, that meant working with the staff this summer to implement a teen pregnancy prevention curriculum, Making Proud Choices. The curriculum emphasizes safer sex by teaching teens about abstinence, condoms, communicating with their partner, and strategies to delay initiating sex.

The Boys and Girls Club staff will be able to sustain the program long after Taylor’s group has graduated, thanks to continued training from the SC Campaign and funds from the Department of Health and Environmental Control's Personal Responsibility and Education Program.

Taylor is confident the project can be sustained, thanks to the passion he found in the community.

“The best part was getting to meet and work with individuals who are committed to making their community better and who can follow through,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t ‘why don’t we try this, why don’t we try that’ they’re out there making it happen.”

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

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