By Jackie Hampton,
Despite historic declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also reports that there is still more work to be done. One county in Mississippi is doing just that: “more work.”
For the past two years, the Community Students Learning Center (CSLC) in core partnership with the Holmes County Consolidated School District (HCCSD) and other community partners, have been implementing HOPE (Health Optimization and Prevention Education). HOPE is a federally-funded project via HHS, Office of Population Affairs’ (OPA) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs (TPP).
However, HOPE’s use of Dibble Institute’s Love Notes 3.0 Evidence Based Program (EBP) curriculum goes beyond teen pregnancy prevention. HOPE trains 6th-12th-graders in the rural Delta Mississippi county on proven best practices and the importance of healthy adolescent relationships.
To culminate May as National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month (NTPPM), HOPE core/community partners, staff, students, etc. teamed to host a virtual general assembly May 27, at 10:30 a.m. called Holmes County Teens Talk. The assembly feature a panel discussion of HOPE participants, past and present, who discussed the thought-provoking topic, “Healthy Versus Toxic Teen Relationships” moderated by HOPE facilitator Kendra Nash, an educator and area playwright whose plays have focused on relationships, teens and adults. She wrote and directed a CSLC Teen Pregnancy Prevention Production for teens several years ago called, “It Can Wait!”
“I really enjoyed being the moderator for the Teen Talk assembly,” said Nash. “I am very passionate about helping children and teens prepare for their future relationships and families. I was so impressed by the responses of our former HOPE participants. It demonstrated that they have the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy decisions about relationships. It makes me feel like I am really making a difference in the lives of our youth.”
HOPE Project Director Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D. concurred. “The assembly really gave evidence that students have really been paying attention to the lessons, she said. Brown was also amazed at the event’s participation. “When I looked down and saw 167 participants on the videoconference, I was so pleased.”
Community partner Willie McGriggs of WEM Consulting, who specializes in housing, said he had not seen that “many brilliant and in-tuned minds come together for the good of the community.” His consultant business sponsored one of several prizes that were given away. Other prize sponsors included The Mississippi Link newspaper, Agape Restaurant and facilitator Lucretia Holmes.
The Mississippi Link was delighted to sponsor a key prize.
CSLC Executive Director Beulah Greer said she was so grateful to the community partners for supporting the HOPE program and for helping derive the idea of a virtual general assembly to observe NTPPM. “We are extremely grateful to school leader Mr. Jamie Kyles and the S.V. Marshall Middle School staff for volunteering to serve as the virtual host,” Greer added.
Charity Smith, who virtually completed the HOPE program last Summer after COVID-19 abruptly disrupted their winter/spring in-class implementation, said, “The HOPE program was and continues to be beneficial to my former classmates and me in informing us about the realities of life by describing relationships and sexual well-being.”
“The HOPE program also gave me the confidence to express myself, manage adulthood, avoid red flags, be happy in relationships, maintain sexual health, protect myself from any type of abuse, and, finally, weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Returning to this helpful activity provides me the confidence to urge younger kids that this content is critical as we move forward in life. It has to begin early, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share the information that the HOPE program’s teachers have given me with junior high children.”
NTPPM is held nationally in May by OPA to highlight the work that still needs to be done to help adolescents reach their full potential.
2021 graduating seniors who completed the HOPE program received a certificate and were awarded a gift card to a local restaurant.
CSLC HOPE community partners include: Holmes County Consolidated School District, Mallory Community Health Center, Goodman Mayoral Health Council, The Mississippi Link Newspaper, The Holmes County Sheriff Department, P.E.A.R.L Mentoring for Girls, Inc., Local Government, Bryant Clark Law Office, PLLC, Power House Deliverance Church, Holmes County Youth Court and WEM Consulting Group.
HOPE will continue this fall.
Note to parents: If your HCCSD 6th-12th-graders have not participated in HOPE or was interrupted and did not complete the program due to the pandemic impact, you may contact Beulah Greer or Gail Brown at 662 834-0905 if they wish to participate in the fall 2021.