Initiative Aims to Reduce Teen Pregnancy in Area

By Maria Sestito
Daily News Staff

Posted Sep. 10, 2015

Pregnancy prevention among teenagers begins with planning.

At the Community Kick-Off event for NC Youth Connected, a new initiative that aims to bring community-wide teen pregnancy prevention strategies to Onslow and Cumberland counties, it was announced that the first step in the five-year strategy is a year of planning. The community is expected to be a part of that planning and several community partners were present at the event including representatives from Onslow County Partnership for Children, Onlsow County Schools, PEERS, United Way of Onslow County, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Schools, Onslow County Health Department, the Board of Education, and SHIFT NC.

Madison Ward, community integration coordinator with SHIFT NC, said that an extensive planning year involving the community is part of the initiative’s multi-pronged approach.

“Anyone and everyone needs to be involved in this project,” Ward said during the kick-off event Thursday morning at Northside High School. Ward has been working with others in the county for the last year and a half on the project which is in full swing now that a federal grant has been received.

Ward and Kay Phillips, chief executive officer at SHIFT NC, knew that the opportunity for the grant would come, Phillips said. Now, she said, they can begin to work at a deeper, more concentrated level.

The project is designed to replicate a similar project in Gaston County during which teen pregnancy rates were lowered by 40 percent by the third year, she said.

Onslow County has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.

In 2013, six teens were pregnant each week -- enough to fill almost eight school buses by the end of the year, said Francine Reeves, clinical services director at the Onslow County Health Department.

Teen pregnancy is closely associated with other socioeconomic issues, said Ann Marie Raymond, family support and health division director at Onslow County Partnership for Children. For example, she said, “teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and more likely to live in poverty, depend on public assistance and be in poor health.” Raymond also cited a survey conducted last year in which eight out of 10 Onslow County parents feel that the community needs to do more to address this issue.

It isn’t just the teens who need the education, though, said Harriet Boykin, Camp Lejeune Assistant Superintendent. Many times parents don’t have the education they need and there needs to be opportunities for students as well as their parents in NC Youth Connected, she said. That is one of the things that may be discussed during this first year of planning.

Phillips said that the community should decide together how the plan will be implemented. “You decide what it is you need for your community,” she said.

Elena Sosa, county director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Onslow County, said she thinks the initiative will work for the county, especially if it is a community effort. “I think it will do wonders,” she said. Sosa said Onslow County is a strong community and that community partnerships will definitely benefit the youth in the county.