Georgia's Teen Pregnancy Programs
by Jill Jordan Sieder
Since 1991, in Georgia there's been a 30 percent decrease in births by teenage girls. Public health officials attribute most of that decline to increased use of condoms and better access to contraceptive services. One after-school program, the High Achievers in Milledgeville, has a strong track record for keeping teens from becoming parents too soon.
The High Achievers program has been working with 30 teens for the past three years. Although it is called a teen pregnancy prevention program, it emphasizes skills building and achievement in things like academics, athletics, and creative skills.
Students join the program in sixth grade, and counselors try to keep them in the program through high school. According to Engala Mulamay, the program's coordinator, the personal and long-term nature of the program is why it works. Teens get straight talk about their bodies, sex, and relationships from people they trust. They also gain important skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
A three-year study of programs like the Milledgeville program found that births among girls were reduced by 50 percent and that the start of sexual activity was delayed. In addition, the teens also had higher test scores and better graduation rates than kids not enrolled in the program.
These results, however, come at a price: about $4,000 per student per year. Currently this funding comes from private sources, but this may change as Congress considers whether to reauthorize Federal funding for programs, like the High Achievers, that teach contraception along with abstinence.