Program focuses on preventing teen pregnancies

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. It is a time for awareness and to praise the efforts made by schools and organizations hosting teen pregnancy prevention programs throughout the United States as well as parents, mentors and friends that actively strive to make a difference in their teen’s choices.

Pregnancy prevention programs and their educators continuously work to teach and equip teens with the information, confidence and self-respect necessary to help teens make proud and responsible choices in their lives.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Hawaii teen birth rates have declined by 65 percent over the past 24 years. This is significant because teen pregnancy rates in the state rank as the tenth highest in the nation.

Furthermore, state of Hawaii assessment data has indicated the island of Kauai has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. Fortunately, with the help of additional education and prevention information, teen pregnancy has seen a substantial decline.

To better understand these education programs and program goals, I interviewed Mary Ann Ornellas, Hale Opio’s prevention program specialist:

What programs or classes do Hale Opio offer to raise awareness about teen pregnancy?

“Hale ’Opio Kauai offers ‘Making a Difference’, an evidence-based abstinence curriculum, which also meets the current Department of Education’s Benchmark Standards, as well as ‘Making Proud Choices’, a comprehensive sexual health curriculum.”

Who can attend these classes?

“Classes are offered to middle school and high school youth, male, female, and also those who identify as LGBTQ”

What does the curriculum emphasize?

“Both ‘Making A Difference’ and ‘Making Proud Choices’ are designed to help youth realize their dreams and life goals while increasing awareness of abstinence, STD, HIV and Teen Pregnancy Prevention.”

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for teens in the community regarding sexuality and pregnancy prevention?

“The biggest challenge for teens is accessibility to medically accurate preventative information. Youth are not getting evidence-based comprehensive sexual health curriculums in school and, therefore, youth are not getting the needed information on prevention of teen pregnancy, STDs and HIV. As well as what are the available resources in our community.”

What is the most important thing for parents to do or say to their teens to help them understand the importance of responsibility and protecting themselves from life-changing circumstances such as teen pregnancy?

“Parents have the duty to ensure that their child is educated with (the) tools necessary to make informed, positive decisions about their body, sex and relationship. Parents should begin communication about these important topics at an early age or before they reach puberty. If parents have open communication with understanding and support, their children are more likely to make better choices.”

How can the community help in teen pregnancy prevention?

“Each and every person in our community has a role to play in reducing teen pregnancy (including) parents, schools, faith-based organizations, policy makers, and youth-serving organizations. In an effort to decrease teen pregnancy here on Kauai, the community needs to employ a variety of efforts including educating teens and (their) parents. Intense public awareness, including media opportunities is key to successful teen pregnancy prevention. Comprehensive Sex Education should start at middle school and continue to high school.”

If you would like more specific information on Hale Opio prevention programs or information on how to better communicate to your teen at home so they make healthier choices in their relationships, contact Mary Ann Ornellas at mornellas@haleopio.org.

Questions?

Hale ’Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Esther Solomon at esolomon@haleopio.org. For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org

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