Jennifer Treese, First Place Award 2003-2004
Young Steward of Public Policy
First Place Award 2003-2004
"Preventing Teen Pregnancy"
By Jennifer Treese
Santa Rita High School
"There are several issues facing the state of Arizona today, such as border control concerns, the status of the economy, and public education, just to name a few. Teen pregnancy is also one of the largest public issues facing our state today. Arizona is tied for second as the highest teen birth rate in the nation; thirty-six teens become pregnant every day in our state, according to The Arizona Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting (ACAPP). That is an alarming figure and something must be done to reduce teen pregnancy in the state of Arizona.
Preventing teen pregnancy needs to start at home. Morals and values need to be ingrained before children are influenced by their peers. Seven out of-ten teens are ready to talk to their parents about issues their parents thought their children were not ready to hear. Most teens say their parents are the source they consider to be the most reliable and complete when it comes to information about sex and birth control. In contrast, the ACAPP says, children who experience poor child rearing and receive less support or supervision from their parents are more likely to become a teen parent. Also, children who have parents who have low levels of education, are poor, and have experienced a divorce, or never have married are also more likely to become pregnant at an early age. Teens who have mothers and older sisters who were teen parents are more likely to give birth as adolescents.
To help prevent this cycle from continuing, girls must receive a first-rate education and attain a good job in order to keep them out of poverty and from becoming teen parents. Sex education is also an essential part of students schooling and needs to begin when students, both male and female, are in middle school and perhaps even in elementary school. Abstinence should be taught in addition to practicing safe sex. Different methods of contraceptives should be introduced and discussed in the classroom, eliminating the perhaps uncomfortable one-on-one encounter with a parent. In addition, girls under eighteen should continue to be allowed to get contraceptives without a parent's permission. Furthermore, classes that specifically target at risk female students could be offered, free of charge at schools. Students could be enrolled based on the recommendation of teachers, counselors, parents or other family members, or even the student herself. It could focus on educating students on what it would be like to be a parent. Providing them with new high tech dolls that act like real babies, to discourage becoming a parent at a young age. Even though most of the focus is on girls, we must not forget boys; they are also involved in the process of conceiving a child. If more boys are educated about sex and condoms, it could potentially reduce the number of girls becoming pregnant.
Continuing on the subject of school, the ACAPP says, 60% of teens nationally, who become pregnant drop out of school at some point. To reduce the number of girls dropping out of school, more drop out prevention programs need to be enacted in high schools. School-based teen parent programs could be added to the handful of already existing ones, which have been found to reduce school drop out and repeat pregnancy rates. Youth development programs such as the Teen Outreach Program are designed to improve life skills or life options, rather than focus on sexual issues or topics, have been found to reduce teen pregnancy and school drop out rates.
It has been proven that female students are less likely to become pregnant if they are involved in extracurricular activities and sports. Female athletes begin having sex at a later age and had fewer sex partners. To get more teen girls involved in sports and after school activities, waivers need to be available for the students who cannot afford to pay for the registration fees, uniforms, etc. There needs to be more school support and interest in girl's sports. The percentage of girls who participate in sports during their freshman year in high school is 30.6. That figure drops to 17.3 by their senior year. Only one state (Illinois) requires daily physical education for school children K-12, according to the ACAPP. If more states require their students to take physical education daily, it might encourage girls to be active in sports outside of physical education classes. Furthermore, if students had a different variety of physical education classes, such as self defense, different types of dance, aerobics and yoga, it might also encourage females to be active and involved in extracurricular activities.
The bottom line is that more attention needs to be given to female students and programs that involve them. A partnership between elementary schools and parents could get girls involved and interested in school while they are young, so they can take these good traits along with them through their years of school."