While teenage pregnancy remains an issue in the local area, those who work with expectant mothers and new parents at two area high schools say the number of teenage pregnancies fluctuates and varies not only year to year, but in percentage compared to other areas.
Richelle Blair, executive director of the Marshall County Starting Points Center, which works with expectant mothers and new parents at John Marshall High School, said, "I think it's always an issue and it's a cause for concern. It's an issue everywhere. People are more aware of it now and it's more open than it once was. It's stressful for them. It's hard for teens. They get stereotyped.
"We're proactive in trying to help kids to get the help they need. What we do is counsel and work with different agencies, such as WIC, the health department and HUD, to make sure pregnant teens, and new parents, get the help they need."
Deana Bobek, a teen parent educator for the Starting Points Center who works with pregnant teens and new parents at John Marshall, added, "We want to make sure they graduate. We don't want to enable kids. We want to empower them to succeed. The question is what can we do to help them succeed? That's my mission"
At the current time, Bobek said about 2 percent of all John Marshall female students are either pregnant or parenting. She stressed again the numbers go up and down, even during the school year. Last year 11 student-parents she was working with all graduated. Some of them went on to college. The last few years the numbers have stayed about the same, she said. John Marshall has a Teen Action Committee, and the administration is active to ensure teen pregnancy is addressed. Bobek continues working with the students even after they graduate.
Blair noted a "Focus on Pregnancy Prevention" program is being developed, and funding for the program is being addressed. It is hoped the program will be "running full" by next school year.
Q: Teen pregnancy - how big of an issue is it in the local area?
A: A very big issue. Teen pregnancy rates fluctuate from year to year, but local educators who work with the students agree that the top priority is making sure the students graduate from high school.
At Wheeling Park High School, Erin Bowers, teen parent coordinator and residential education liaison, expressed similar concerns. She agreed the number of teen pregnancies locally is a concern and that it fluctuates, making giving a percentage or comparisons from year-to-year difficult.
"At Wheeling Park, we feel it is important for these teen parents to graduate high school so they can get jobs and to be able to support their families," she said. "It is also important so that they can be good role models for their children. This is essential because these teen parents are the first teachers and most important role models for their children."
She pointed out Wheeling Park has a monthly teen parent meeting during which speakers provide information on community resources available to them. Wheeling Park is the only school in the area with a day care within the school for teen parents and school staff. It is run by Crittenton Services Inc.
"At Wheeling Park the teachers, counselors, and administrators sincerely work with the teen parents to get them to complete their high school graduation requirements so they can lead productive lives," she concluded.