News / Health

NYC Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Keeps Youths on Track

A Model New York Program to Keep Young Lives On Tracki
X
April 19, 2013 12:02 AM
Each year, 750,000 American girls under the age of 20 -- most of them unmarried -- become pregnant. It’s one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized West. Those who give birth and become teen mothers -- more than half -- face often difficult futures: a greater chance of poverty, of dropping out of school, and unemployment. New York City has an especially high rate, with about 20,000 teen pregnancies each year. But since 1984, an after-school prevention program run by the Children’s Aid Society in New York has succeeded in halving the number of pregnancies among participants. As VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports, the effort starts young, with children who are ten and eleven years old.

A Model New York Program to Keep Young Lives On Track

Carolyn Weaver
Each year, about 750,000 American girls under the age of 20 become pregnant. It’s one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized West. New York City's rate is especially high: more than 20,000 teenagers become pregnant each year. For those who keep their baby - more than half of teen moms around the country - the decision often leads to dropping out of school, unemployment and poverty.

As a young teacher in the Bronx in 1959, Michael Carrera saw how teen pregnancy in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods foreclosed the hopes of many young girls and boys who became parents long before they were capable of taking care of themselves, let alone a family.

His interest led him to develop a pregnancy prevention program for the Children's Aid Society in 1984, a program he has run ever since. It is one of the relative few with proven effectiveness: Participants in the Carrera after-school program have half the pregnancy rate of other New York teens from similarly poor backgrounds.

The program starts before students reach puberty, with schoolchildren only 10 or 11 years old, and lasts through high school. There are sessions after school each day and on many Saturdays, as well as over the summer.

Sex education is only part of it. Carrera, who has a graduate degree in psychology, says the key is to address all of a child's needs, from physical and mental health, to knowledge and practical skills, to the need for achievement and a sense of mastery. These things, he says, help young people envision and plan futures of attainment.

“When young people believe that good things are going to happen in their lives, when they feel there is promise of success, they reduce risks on their own," he said. "So, we don’t prevent teen pregnancy - they do."

In addition to attending workshops on sex, relationships and family-life, students train in individual sports, such as swimming or squash, and take classes in self-expressive arts, such as writing. They learn how to find and keep part-time jobs and open their own bank accounts. They also receive educational and college counseling, and full medical and dental care.

22-year-old Kaity Modesto stayed in through college, getting job-coaching, and even money for workplace attire. As for sex and relationships, Modesto said she learned things her parents had not known to teach her.
 
“Even how to say no - it’s very hard in some circumstances as a woman, to say no," she said. "Because you might like someone, but you’re not ready for that step, and you think you should be. And [in] those kinds of things, the program definitely made [helped] me build confidence.”
 
“The program saved my life. It saved my life," said Felipe Ayala, who now works as the program’s college advisor. One of the first participants in 1984, he came from a tough neighborhood. He said most of his peers ended up in prison, became addicted to drugs, or were killed in gang or drug violence.

“The program kept us involved in things, and made sure we weren’t looking to have sex," said Ayala. "We weren’t in lonely places with young women, we weren’t taking young women to have sex with them, and becoming fathers before we were supposed to.”
 
Carrera, now in his mid-70s, said he seeks to give participants everything that he wanted for his own children. He said he looks for that same "desperation to help" in prospective staff.

"I say to them sometimes, 'I wish I could take an MRI of your soul, because I want to see if you understand the importance of gentleness and generosity.' I want to feel that they really do believe that these young people have gifts and talents, and no matter how deeply they're buried, or what the appearance of the young person, that they're going to be working with them weeks and months and years in order for it to be surfaced and used. That's the kind of desperation I'm talking about," he said.

The Carrera program is not cheap. The investment of $2,500 per child per year is perhaps the main reason it has not been more widely copied.

Still, it now reaches 4,000 students in 12 states, including 2,000 in New York City. And it could expand in the future: The Obama White House honored it with a “social innovation” award, and in 2010 ordered for the first time that federal funding for sex education go only to programs of proven effectiveness in reducing teen pregnancy.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid