An average of four out of 100 teenaged girls will get pregnant in Grand County. Teen mothers are 30 percent less likely to complete high school or obtain a GED by age 22. Less than two percent of teen mothers receive a college degree before age 30. Nearly 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare.
When the Moab Community Action Coalition discovered how a segment of the local population was at risk, they took action by applying for a Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grant. Last fall, the MCAC received a three-year PREP grant to work with area teenagers.
“The teen birth rate in Grand County is higher than other counties and the state average, which tells us there’s a need,” said Pippa Thomas, PREP coordinator. “Also, ask any teen or pre-teen if they know someone who got pregnant or got someone pregnant as a teenager and the vast majority will say yes. Often, the person they know is their own parents or siblings. So, teen pregnancy is a perceived norm in our community.”
PREP’s main goals are to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, increase personal responsibility, and build communication between youth and their parents.
The program is able to pursue these goals through three main avenues: parent workshops that teach how to communicate with teenagers, community events to provide sexual health resources, and a teen program called TalkShop. Each part was created in order to build a better understanding of sexual health in the Moab community.
Parent workshop topics include money and sex, two topics that can be very uncomfortable discuss. The connection is that both require forethought and responsibility to be able to obtain life-long goals.
“That sense of responsibility is a really good model for sex education” said Val Cotton, PREP coordinator. “You’re responsible with your money, you’ve made decisions, you’ve thought about it. Then that translates back to sexual health where it’s ‘what is your limit?’, ‘how are you going to communicate that to your partner?’ and ‘how are you going to live that so that you are reaching your goals?’”
Last month PREP hosted the documentary “Blood Lines”, which illustrates the reality of being young and living with HIV. The movie viewing was held at the Grand County Library and included time for parents and teenagers to discuss the topic.
Next month PREP is planning an HIV/STI testing event in coordination with the MCAC and the Moab Free Health Clinic. Cotton and Thomas decided put it together after they discovered through the teen program that Moab has virtually no HIV/STI testing services available for people who are uninsured. Testing will be available from 2 to 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 17 and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug, 18 at the Moab Free Health Clinic, 350 south 400 East.
The teen component at PREP, TalkShop, is a 14-lesson long, evidence-based, comprehensive sexual education and adulthood preparedness course. The lessons give accurate, relevant information on STIs and contraception through a state-approved curriculum.
Two-thirds of sexual education programs that support both abstinence and contraceptives decrease sexual activity, increase monogamy, or increase the use of contraceptives, according to Advocates for Youth.
The curriculum also includes financial literacy and college preparation classes. Teenagers also get to participate in community service projects like volunteering at the Youth Garden and the Canyonlands Care Center. Cotton said the community service made a difference.
“Already I’ve seen that some of our teens have their eyes open. They just never even knew that they had so much to offer,” Cotton said. “Just bringing that out in teenagers is going to be so huge for this community.”
Based on a pre-and post- knowledge survey of sexual health, the students have improved on average by twenty percent, Thomas said.
“Throughout the program, we ask teens to define their sexual boundaries. It is clear to us that, in the beginning, boundaries aren’t something they’ve really thought through,” Thomas said. “By the end of the program, they clearly understand their options and can confidently express what their boundary is.”
For more information contact Pippa Thomas or Valerie Cotton at (435) 260-0236 or firstname.lastname@example.org.