A community wide collaboration is credited with helping to reduce teenage pregnancy in Holyoke Massachusetts. Officials acknowledge there is much work yet to do, as Holyoke has the highest teen birth rate in the state. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
Holyoke’s political leaders, educators, healthcare providers and youth organizations have been working together for nearly two years to deliver one message to teenagers: you have choices. Activities and events focus teenagers on the opportunities to build lives for themselves, before creating life. Mayor Alex Morse says its important to reduce teen birth rates because of the negative economic and social impacts on the community.
In 2010, the most recent year statistics are available, Holyoke had a rate of 96 point 8 births per 1000 girls ages 15 to 19. Despite having the top rate in the state for five years running, officials say the trend has been to fewer teenaged girls giving birth.
To help lower the teen birth rate at a faster pace, in Holyoke and Springfield, the US Centers for Disease Control, awarded a $5.5 million grant to the private, non-profit Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the goal is to reduce teen births by ten percent.
A new sex education curriculum began in the middle school in January, according to Holyoke School Superintendent David Dupont.
Many of the youth organizations and health care providers involved in Holyoke’s teen pregnancy prevention efforts gathered recently to highlight their work and mark their participation in a national day to prevent teen pregnancy.
Geisha Uroza is the teen pregnancy prevention program coordinator at Girls Inc of Holyoke.
Katherine Sanchez, who had the first of her four children when she was a teenager spoke about her experience. She said she her life has been hard.
The youth groups and the schools sponsor poster and essay contests with winners receiving certificates and gift cards.