Special to The Mississippi Link,

CSLC HOPE facilitator Kendra West virtually explains one of the Love Notes lessons. Photo Contributed by CSLS staff

CSLC HOPE facilitator Kendra West virtually explains one of the Love Notes lessons. Photo Contributed by CSLC staff

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, and according to the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Population Affairs’ (OPA) Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, “grantees are changing the lives of people around the nation” (hhs.gov).

Dubbed by the federal agency as “ground-level change agents,” grantees like the Community Students Learning Center (CSLC) of Holmes County in partnership with the Holmes County Consolidated School District (HCCSD) and other key partners, are grateful to be among such agents.

Information on hhs.gov also points out that although “significant declines in teen pregnancies have occurred in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups, yet disparities continue.”

“To us and our dedicated partners, HOPE (Health Optimization and Prevention Education) is more than a teen pregnancy prevention program,” said Beulah Greer, CSLC executive director and HOPE’s authorizing official. Greer explained that the two-year HOPE project, using its chosen Love Notes 3.0 evidence-based curriculum by Dibble Institute, looks at the whole youth in terms of developing comprehensive healthy relationships.

CSLC HOPE completed implementation of HCCSD 6th-grade participants last fall. It begun this semester’s implementation with the 7th, 8th and 12th-graders until the devastating public health crisis COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the very core of our nation and world, destroying lives and closing businesses and schools.

“During this unexpected COVID-19 disruption, we are still committed to working with CSLC to maximize this opportunity for our students and their families,” said Superintendent of Schools, James L. Henderson, Ed.D.

Thanks to the recent federal greenlight to continue implementation via an interactive video conferencing platform, CSLC HOPE virtually resumed May 6. 

“Facilitators Kendra West and Aisha Saffold did a great job last week with the first online implementation of their sessions, and the students were engaged and interacted well,” said Gail M. Brown, CSLC HOPE project director. 

Virtual parent orientation meetings were held days prior to the student sessions to explain to them the virtual logistics. 

“As Superintendent of Schools of HCCSD, the core collaborative partner with CSLC HOPE, I believe the program is one from which our students will benefit greatly. Learning how to develop and maintain healthy relationships during adolescence is a crucial developmental skill to take into adulthood,” Henderson said. 

Speaking of adulthood, CSLC HOPE  offers an adult/parent/community component. Twenty community residents of Goodman, Miss. had just completed five exciting, interactive and engaging face-to-face sessions before the pandemic hit. An additional 16 adults had been recruited for the next series. 

“I want to attend the sessions again. It helped me a lot,” said Lonnie Tyrone Young of Goodman. He also applauds the facilitator Lucretia Holmes for helping him to come out of his comfort zone during the sessions.

“I hope the young people are listening to what you all are showing them with this program,” Young added. 

Another Goodman participant Clarice Haymon shared similar comments. “I really enjoyed having the discussions, getting advice and interacting with the engaging opinions of others,” Haymon said. “It helped me to understand more about relationships; we need to have another one,” she expressed. 

Kimberly Patton, an educator and parent of a participating seventh-grader at Williams-Sullivan Middle School said, “Love Notes provides a venue of hope for our kids’ future.” She added, “The facilitator Aisha Saffold gave sound [guidance] on the Traits, Morals, Values and Authentic guidelines to identify whether the relationship was healthy or toxic. She was so encouraging and enthusiastic … in motivating our students to conquer healthy relationships.” 

Patton is delighted over the feedback her students gave on how the sessions really helped them reflect on a personal level. “CSLC HOPE will be well-needed especially during this pandemic and years to come,” said Patton. 

Another Williams-Sullivan educator who is a parent of a participating senior had this to say: “I feel this program is much needed in the school and community in which the student resides. This program has helped to enforce discussions that I have with my child. It helps my son make positive decisions that could be possibly negative.”

Students with perfect attendance of the virtual sessions will have their names placed in a drawing at the end of each week for a variety of exciting prizes, occasionally including cash. (See Table for Virtual Implementation Schedule.)

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Businesses, organizations and individuals who would like to donate prizes for the weekly perfect-attendance drawings may contact the Community Students Learning Center at 662 834-0905 for a safe appointment to drop them off. (Please wear your mask and practice all CDC guidelines). Or, you may mail any financial donations to CSLC-HOPE, 333 Yazoo Street, Lexington, MS  39095.

We are recruiting HOPE participants for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. We are also recruiting parents and other community adults who would like to participate in CSLC HOPE’s “Let’s Talk” sessions which will be held each Wednesday via Zoom from 3-4 p.m.

Please call 662 834-0905 to enroll your 6th-12th grader for next year and/or to sign up yourself for the “Let’s Talk” adult sessions.

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The project described [in this article] is supported by 1TP1AH000205-01-00 from HHH Office of Population Affairs. Disclaimer:  Contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Population Affairs.

*Students and parents, please check your HCCSD district email for all communications. Adults and parents who would like to be contacted via personal contact info, please call CSLC at (662) 834-0905.   

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