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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid