Involving Youth in Teen Pregnancy Prevention (page 2)
When it comes to talking about preventing teen pregnancy, few voices are as powerful or authentic as those of teens themselves. Any effort to reduce teen pregnancy can benefit from their unique insights. Purposefully involving a diverse group of teens from local organizations, schools, after-school programs, and faith communities helps create stronger, more effective programs and offers invaluable leadership opportunities for participating teens.
Here are some ideas for involving youth in teen pregnancy prevention efforts and examples of how particular programs are benefitting from youth participation.
- Take teen involvement seriously. Respect the teens you
involve and hire staff who are eager and willing to work with teens to
sustain their engagement.
SEX, ETC., a newsletter written for and by teens about health and sexuality, was launched in 1994 as a project of the Network for Family Life Education at Rutgers University (908/445-7929). Since its inception, six different teen editorial boards have written stories that have reached over 1.5 million teens across the country.
- Involve teens early in the planning of a program's goals and
activities. Incorporate teen voices into decision-making and
take teens' opinions seriously.
The Central New York Council on Adolescent Pregnancy (315/471-0564) recruited young people from local youth groups to form a teen committee that was instrumental in developing the goals and agenda for the community's events to commemorate Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
- Let teens be your ambassadors to understanding youth
culture. Use their input when developing messages, designing
marketing campaigns, and writing any printed materials targeting teens.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy's Youth Leadership Team (YLT) developed two successful publications: Thinking About the Right-Now, which offers practical advice for teens by teens, and a companion brochure, Talking Back: Ten Things Teens Want Parents to Know About Teen Pregnancy. The two pamphlets have appeared inTeen People magazine (circ. 8.4 million) and in Ann Landers' syndicated column (circ. 90 million), and have been widely distributed to parents, teens, and organizations nationwide. Most recently, the YLT helped create the Campaign's Voices Carry: Teens Speak Out on Sex and Teen Pregnancy, which offers the unvarnished opinions of teens on everything from what "sex" really means to why being a teen virgin is "cool." (To order these publications, visit the National Campaign's publications page: www.teenpregnancy.orghttps://www.teenpregnancy.org/store/.)
- Provide teens with the appropriate training and information and
make them feel responsible for projects. An integral part of
involving teens today is encouraging them to become leaders and
The Family Health Council's Teen Peer Education Program of Pennsylvania (412/288-2130) holds an annual conference created by teens for teens. The one-day meeting offers teens the opportunity to learn and share ideas with their peers and youth advocates. Postponing Sexual Involvement helps teens deal with sexual peer pressure and encourages them to engage in meaningful and fulfilling activities instead of sex. (For more information, contact the Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, GA, 404/616-3513.)
- Work with teens to make risky sexual behavior "unhip."
Teens in the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program (928-778-2531) of Prescott, Arizona, designed book covers for middle school students with messages about teen pregnancy, sex, and peer pressure. The book covers are available free to all students. For the past two years, Teen People magazine has sponsored "Take A Stand Against Teen Pregnancy" contests, encouraging teens nationwide to develop their own public service announcements about teen pregnancy prevention. Winning entries are published in Teen People and postcard versions are distributed widely by the National Campaign (202/478-8500).
- Take your program and message to where teens are.
The teen educators of the Glendale Community Council (623/937-9034) in Glendale, Arizona, have partnered with the Wellness Connection - an organization that offers health information to senior citizens at a local shopping mall - to use its space one weekend a month to provide peer-led sex education to teens.
- Encourage teens to be media and community
Youth Radio of Oakland, California, and Teen Expression of New Orleans, Louisiana, put teens in front of the camera and behind the microphone. Youth Radio (510/841-5123) airs teen commentaries, in-depth reports, features, and panel discussions. Teen Expression (504/539-9350) is a cable access talk show produced, hosted, and designed by teens.
- Give teens a voice with policymakers and community
The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health's Youth Need to Know Network (312/427-4460) educates teens to be advocates with policymakers for comprehensive health/sexuality and HIV/AIDS education programs.
- Offer incentives, awards, and recognition for the work that
teens do for your organization.
Youth as Resources (202/261-4131), a community-based program in Washington, DC, provides small grants to young people to design and carry out service projects that address social problems and contribute to community change.
- Use creative methods to deliver messages and engage
Both Teens Against the Spread of AIDS (202/884-5499) in Washington, DC, and The Bronx Teen Advocates, a program of Planned Parenthood of New York City (212/965-4834), have employed theater as a way to reach other teens. Captivating their audiences through drama, peer-to-peer mentoring, and other creative exercises, they are able to share information about sexuality and decision-making in a teen-friendly way.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. © 2008, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
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