West End Neighborhood House

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West End to initiate comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention program

WILMINGTON — For the next five years, hundreds of city teens will get a heavy dose of a teen pregnancy prevention program that will offer everything from sex education to financial training.

It’s called the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program and will be coming to West End Neighborhood House through a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The program is different from many teen pregnancy prevention initiatives because it is intensive and holistic, said Monica Alvarez, West End’s development director.

Participants 13 to 19 years old must commit to participate six days a week for at least one year. In addition to sex-education classes, the teens will get medical and mental health care, homework assistance and tutoring. They also will take college tours and arts classes, participate in sports and be part of a job club that includes financial literacy training.

The theory is that if teens get help in all areas of their lives, they will be in a position to choose to not get pregnant or impregnate someone, said Sheila Reich, director of national implementation of the Carrera program, which began in New York City and now helps 3,000 teens across the country.

“Young people on their own can eliminate teen pregnancy,” Reich said. “Our job is to illuminate the pathway.”
The statistics on teen pregnancy in Wilmington are not good. There were 221 births by mothers 19 years old or younger in the city in 2007, according to state statistics. Of those, 25, or 11.3 percent, were to mothers in the ninth grade or below. Only 54, or 24.4 percent, were high school graduates. Only one was married.

Of those 221 births, 43, or 19.4 percent, were the teen moms’ second child. Five were the third child and, in one case, a teen mom had her fourth child. Eighty percent of the teen moms were black, according to the report.

“If that isn’t a disaster, I don’t know what is,” Mayor James M. Baker said.

He said the federal money for programs such as Carrera’s is long overdue. “You cannot stop crime by just calling the police. You have to have early childhood education. This country had better wake up,” Baker said. “The earlier you start working with young people, the better. You’ve got to stay with young people for at least five years to make a difference.”

The grant will give West End nearly $600,000 a year for five years. Nearly 100 teens a year will be served. The clients will be encouraged to stay in the program for five years, Alvarez said.

One of the clients will be 12-year-old Di’Andra Woody, who is in the seventh grade. She said she’s enthusiastic about the program because she doesn’t want to be one of the statistics recited by the adults Thursday when officials announced the grant to West End.

“It will help me know about the dangers out there in the world and how having sex at an early age will ruin my life,” she said. “If I’m planning on going to college and then getting a job, it would ruin my chances of doing that early, because I will have to stay home and take care of the baby.”

Westside Family Healthcare will perform medical exams for the teens. Jewish Family Services of Delaware will provide mental health services. Junior Achievement of Delaware also is a partner.

Alvarez told West End’s Director, Paul Calistro, the organization needed to apply for the grant because the agency was doing good work in improving the neighborhood’s housing stock and helping young adults, but needed to reach people when they are young.

“This program will show them they have a future,” Alvarez said. “They can open a bank account. They can go to college. For a lot of these kids, those things are fantasies, things that other kids do.”

Reich said the program in Wilmington will give the teens in Wilmington the care they deserve.