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Teen mothers tell peers to wait to have children
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 09:00
In an effort to reduce teen pregnancy rates in the Verde Valley, a group of local girls who know what it’s like to have a baby are taking their message to middle school students.

Pregnancy_PreventionThe Teen Alliance for Achievement in Life and Learning, or TAALL, is a group of young mothers from South Verde Technology Magnet School, aka South Verde High School.

They all love their children, but they want to share the reality of being a teen mom with other girls.

It’s not sex education, Principal Steve King said, and the group obviously wasn’t created to judge people.

“There’s a real need here,” King said. “Every baby is a blessing, but we want girls to know that blessings can wait.”

Aside from increased drop-out rates among teen mothers, there are plenty of other considerations girls should take into account.

As a rule, teenage fathers aren’t exactly the most responsible fathers on the planet, King said, so the girls often have to go it alone. And there’s no one more qualified to talk about things like stretch marks and the extremely limited social life that comes with raising a newborn than the mothers themselves.

“There are definitely a lot of body issues,” said Courtney Tenakhongva, a member of the group. “Every girl has a different story, but they’re all in the same situation.”

Having a child is an amazing experience, said Desirae Pierce, a young student and mother.

Pierce said that while having her baby has made her a more responsible person, it can be difficult raising a child alone, especially for a high school student.

The group hopes that introducing younger girls to the facts of life of having a baby may get some of them to think twice before ending up in that situation.

“These girls are articulate and intelligent,” King said. “I think they can really make a difference.”

The group is still in the developmental stages, said Jeremia Sunfellow, a volunteer who works with the group. The girls are in the process of making a movie to tell their personal stories, and Sunfellow said she hopes they can take their message to other schools soon. It’s been difficult to get things rolling due to state budget cuts in education, Sunfellow said, but she’s hoping this volunteer effort will pay off in the long run.

“Sex education is lacking around here,” Sunfellow said. “This is a way to provide younger girls with a really personal peer account of the realities of having a baby.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 750,000 teenagers get pregnant in the United States each year, and nearly a third of all teenage girls will eventually get pregnant. The Southwest has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

The group has a Web site at stand-tall.ning.com. Sunfellow said they hope to take their message to middle schools soon, and possibly to elementary schools next year.

 

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