Holiday Fund: How teens help peers prevent pregnancyBy Shelly Masur, executive director, and Kris P. Ahmed, director of training, Teen Talk Sexuality Education.
Mayerlin was 16 when she had her son. A Woodside High student who had the distinction of holding one of the district's highest state test scores, Mayerlin got pregnant her first time. She had a long-time boyfriend and didn't think getting pregnant would ever happen to someone like her.
Sitting in front of a classroom of middle school students, she says, "I never thought of birth control, because I thought I would never get pregnant."
Mayerlin joined Teen Talk's Teen Parent Panel because, she says: "Lots of people think it is cool and normal to be a teen parent. I want to change that perspective because being a teen parent is very hard. You have to dedicate your life to your baby."
The Teen Parent Panel, a program of Teen Talk located in Redwood City, educates youth on the realities of teen parenthood. Panelists share personal stories with peers and provide students and speakers with an invaluable opportunity to learn from each other.
These resilient teen parents discuss issues from how their relationships changed with their partners, parents and friends, to the pressures they felt to become sexually active in the first place.
Panelists make an impact every time they present. Mayerlin's story spurred one student to offer her money. Another student wrote: "Your story really made me realize that having a baby is lots of work and not an easy job, and if you're planning to have sex you need to talk about birth control."
Maria also had a baby at 16. Maria discloses family conflict when faced with her pregnancy; many family members were disappointed, while others saw no problem.
Maria talks about how young Latinas should focus on their education before starting a family. A critical discussion given 52 percent of Latinas in the U.S. will become pregnant as teens and only one quarter finish high school after having a baby.
Teen Talk's Teen Parent Panel is part of its comprehensive approach to preventing teen pregnancy. In addition, Teen Talk partners with school districts, including the Sequoia Union High School District, to provide classroom-based education.
Nationally recognized for its innovative work, Teen Talk has been selected to start a new program, Teen Success, aimed at assisting teen mothers. Through weekly support groups, these teens gain information, skills and learn behaviors to prevent another pregnancy and graduate high school.
Working together, Teen Talk's programs help teens beat the odds by finishing school, keeping a job, and escaping poverty.
As one teen mom says, teen pregnancy is 100 percent preventable.
You can help Teen Talk get this important message out by giving to the Almanac Holiday Fund.
Visit teentalkca.org for more information about Teen Talk. Local contact info: Teen Talk, 120 James Ave., Redwood City, CA 94062. Call (650) 367-1937.