Juggling books, baby bag and the baby carrier, North Clay Middle School eighth-grader Justin Rodgers prepares to take home his son, "Lebron", for the weekend. Lebron is one of the 20 new Reality Works Baby Think It Over Infant Simulators available for use at the Clay Community School Corp.
By IVY HERRON
Statistics from the Indiana State Department of Health show cases of teen pregnancy in Clay County have decreased 50 percent from seven years ago. The goal of the three programs is to reduce teen pregnancy. Creating Positive Relationships, Baby Think It Over and PEER'S Educating PEER'S curriculum is in full swing at North Clay Middle School, with eight-grade students learning the positive message about choosing abstinence until marriage.
"The blending of these three programs creates a powerful and impacting message to our students; encouraging them to choose abstinence until the committed relationship of marriage," says Shannon Clark, BTIO Coordinator. "Our ultimate goal is to see young people succeed to lead healthy lives, physically, emotionally, mentally and socially."
Clark, who is a junior at Indiana State University majoring in Child Development and Family Life, has participated in these programs while attending school in Clay County and was one of the first students to become a PEER mentor when the program started at Northview High School in 2000.
"This is her first year to run the BTIO program and her youth and energy brings new excitement to the program," says Kandace Brown, Curriculum Administrator of CPR, BTIO and PEER'S Educating PEER'S. "Students relate to her teaching style and approach."
With Brown and Clark working together, they agree about the need for these programs.
"I have been a part of all three programs and firmly support them," said Clark. "I appreciate Clay Community Schools seeing the need for these programs, and hope to see them continue in the schools."
"We hope to give hands-on experience to 300 students this year," said Brown. "It is our hope that a little taste as to what teen parenting is like will motivate young people to evaluate their behavior in light of possible negative consequences."
Thirty eighth-grade students are experiencing teen parenting by taking home one of the school corporation's 20 new Reality Works Baby Think It Over Infant Simulators.
The baby simulators, made available through the Project Respect Grant, can be used in health education classes and consumer science classes or to create innovative lesson plans such as budgeting in math classes and even sociology experiments.
"How am I going to get home with all this stuff?" eighth-grader Justin Rodgers asked, looking around the classroom for help. He was loaded down with homework, a backpack, a baby care bag and his new son "Lebron" inside his carrier.
"Welcome to being a teen parent," Kandace Brown said, smiling at the frustrated new father. "This is just the beginning."
The purpose of the program is to give students a reality check about teen parenting and how it affects the whole family. Each new parent is responsible for their child for three days -- a locked orange computer bracelet placed around each new parent's wrist will determine the level of care they gave their new son or daughter.
"The harsh reality is teen moms have over a 70 percent chance of living at the poverty line or below for the rest of their lives and 50 percent of teen moms will drop out of school, 30 percent of teen fathers will not graduate from school" said Brown. "These are the kinds of stats we don't want to see mirrored in the lives of our young people."