Teen pregnancy affects the entire community

By Vincent Lyles
President & CEO of Greater Milwaukee Boys & Girls Clubs

Vincent Lyles

Vincent Lyles

In 2008, the citywide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative was launched, led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee. The goal was to reduce the teen birth rate in Milwaukee by 46 percent by 2015.

Through a strategic approach involving a highly public awareness campaign and intentional partnerships, that goal of 46 percent was surpassed in 2012 – three years early.

While this is encouraging news, we must not pause on this mission to prevent teen pregnancy.

As May marks Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, it is important to continue bringing awareness to this social issue that is a real concern in our city.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department released numbers on teen births in 2012: 25.7 births for every 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 17.

This number greatly affects our community.

According to United Way’s website, the long term cost of a Milwaukee teen having one baby is estimated at $79,320.

Additionally, girls who are born to teen moms are 83 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

So what are we going to do to keep moving the needle forward on preventing teen pregnancy?

As for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, we’re proud to be a Healthy Girls Initiative Agency Program Partner with United Way of Greater Milwaukee.

As part of their teen pregnancy prevention campaign, the Clubs have implemented the Making Proud Choices! curricula, an evidence-based program.

The Clubs reach more than 350 teens between the ages of 11 and 18 at five locations across the city with Making Proud Choices! sessions.

In addition to Making Proud Choices! our Club members have come together to participate in Spread the Word, an awareness campaign that creates public service announcements on social and community issues.

With help from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s film department, our members created 12 public service announcements this year through Spread the Word, focusing exclusively on teen pregnancy awareness.

Each group of teens created a one to four minute video on a specific point of view around teen pregnancy.

Our members worked very hard and premiered the videos at UWM’s Union Theater on Tuesday, May 6. To view the videos, please visit http://bgcpsas.weebly.com/.

At Boys & Girls Clubs, we see the effects teen pregnancy has on our members.

It does not just affect the teen mom, or teen dad, but everyone who is in that person’s life.

Our members who were born to teen mothers are also more likely to face difficult situations, including living in single-parent and low-income households. This becomes a serious barrier to their future success.

Teen pregnancy affects the entire community.

We’ve made great progress over the last five years to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in Milwaukee, but we need to keep reaching the young people in our community and lower this number even further.

I encourage parents, guardians and mentors to talk to your teens about the effects of teen pregnancy and the consequences of having a baby before they’re ready.

An open conversation can make a big impact on a young person.

Until my next column, you’re invited to visit a Boys & Girls Club nearest you. Visit our website at www.boysgirlsclubs.org to find a location. Keep up-to-date about Boy & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through www.facebook.com/bgcmilwaukee, on Twitter at @bgcmilwaukee, or at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.