Rx to fight teen pregnancy PDF Print E-mail
Young people in this community are ready. Ready to be taken seriously. Ready to learn. Ready to be supported.

That's what I came away with after attending a teen pregnancy forum recently put on by Metro Council for Teen Potential. And more adults in our community need to step up to the call. I was asked to be an "adult responder" to the category of media and their role on image. Other topic areas included life skills, health care, family communication and teen parents. Both youths and adults spoke.


Such forums are important because they create a much needed dialogue to help battle teen pregnancy in Monroe County. While there's been a 45 percent decrease in teen birth rates in Rochester from 1990 to 2005, the area still has some of the highest rates in the state. That the babies born in 2005 to teen moms will fill 26 classrooms when they enter school in 2010 is a wakeup call.

And what many of the young people in attendance at the forum had to say should be listened to.

Involvement, or having a group to belong to, is key. One young lady — 18-year-old Mildrena Vega, in her first semester at Monroe Community College — talked about how much she had gotten out of her involvement with Charles Settlement House. She was grateful for the chance to learn leadership skills and the opportunity to volunteer in the community, and expressed her dissatisfaction with the lack of people her age involved with the program.


Others talked about the need for greater access to health care and sex education. I wholeheartedly agree. It was suggested that health education should be moved up to ninth grade instead of 11th in the City School District, while retaining the seventh-grade curriculum. Young people are craving to know about their bodies and how to protect them.


Adults need to realize this. One candidate who came in recently for an endorsement interview voiced concern over the amount of sex education in schools. This person wanted more abstinence education. I, too, would love to see more young people wait until marriage to become sexually active.


But the truth is that young men and women need the full arsenal made available to them to navigate today's hypersexualized society. As I told the crowd, being constantly bombarded with images that portray young women as sex objects and young men as violent thugs makes it hard to not assume that identity in daily life. And if the child doesn't have a proper home structure and support system, the consequences can be even more dire.


As a 27-year-old professional woman, I feel fortunate that I managed to survive the adolescent years without having a child or falling into some other undesirable circumstance. My parents provided a good foundation. It's incumbent on the community to provide a similar foundation for those not as blessed.


As the Editorial Board embarks on a special project examining the problems facing the City School District, we recognize how teen pregnancy contributes to other societal ills such as school dropout rates, poverty and crime. We'll continue to raise this issue. In the meantime, there's a great deal that can be done by everyone in the community. The Metro Council for Teen Potential does a good job of supporting young people, but there's never a shortage of youth in need. And while many of the concepts and issues raised by the young people are not new, high pregnancy rates persist. The disconnect is still too large. Young people are waiting to be listened to, to be supported and to be educated. Whether through mentoring or parenting one's own child, adults need to intervene as early as possible.

Kamahria Hopkins
Editorial writer,
Democrat and Chronicle