From Backpacks to Briefcases:
By Vincent Lyles
In 2002, Milwaukee held the second highest teen pregnancy rate for the top 50 American cities according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In early 2008, Mayor Tom Barrett, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, and the Center for Urban Population Health wanted to put a stop to this alarming statistic.
Their goal was to drop Milwaukee’s teen pregnancy rate 46 percent by 2015, which would take the city out of the top ten. Initially, it was thought to be unreachable.
However, on October 23, 2013 Mayor Barrett and the Teen Pregnancy Initiative announced that Milwaukee exceeded this goal three years early with a 50 percent decrease.
The effort was led by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee, which brought together various local media outlets, businesses, Milwaukee Public Schools, health care providers and faith-based organizations.
The public awareness campaigns brought to the forefront of teens’ minds the negative effects teen pregnancy can have on young men and women.
United Way’s “If Truth Be Told” campaign encouraged parents/guardians to talk about sex with their children utilizing the hashtag #SexMyths.
Keeping birth rates in Milwaukee low not only is great for the city, but is great for those who live here.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who do not give birth in their teen years are 90 percent more likely to receive their high school diploma.
Teens that do not get pregnant are more likely to achieve higher levels of education, have a greater chance of attaining employment, as well as not heading a single-parent family.
There are things we can inform our teens about to help them win against teen pregnancy.
If adults are not talking to teens about sex, someone else is, and they might not have the right information. It is important to listen to teens and find out what they know regarding:
• Sexual issues, HIV, other STIs.
• Methods of pregnancy prevention.
• Perceptions of peer norms and attitudes about sex.
• Where they can go for help or information about birth control/condoms.
• How to say, “No.”
Last fall, the nationally acclaimed Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention made its Wisconsin debut at the Darrell Lynn Hines Preparatory Academy, located at 7151 N. 86th St., where it is implemented and operated by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
Boys & Girls Clubs staff work with the academy’s administration to deliver the Carrera curriculum to fifth, sixth and seventh grade students.
The Carrera Program began almost 30 years ago through the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of New York.
It is an evidence-based program that helps young people avoid becoming parents during the second decade of their lives.
The Carrera Program at Hines Preparatory Academy is the only one in Wisconsin and was made possible through a partnership with Community Advocates, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and was funded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human services.
The Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program is the only three year fully evaluated teenage pregnancy prevention program in the country with statistically proven effectiveness.
The program uses a long-term, comprehensive “above-the-waist” approach to ensure young people develop personal goals, improve their sexual literacy, and cultivate the desire for a productive future.
The Carrrera curriculum consists of seven core areas: employment, family life sexual education, self-expression, lifetime individual sports, mental health, academics and health advocacy.
Programs such as the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program, combined with the efforts of United Way and the City of Milwaukee are influencing how teens think about themselves.
Let’s continue the trend of lowering teen pregnancy and birth rates in Milwaukee.
As parents and concerned adults, we should encourage teens to think about what they want their futures to be, to set goals and to take positive steps to achieve them.