By Suzanne Schrag | October 22, 2014
Suzanne Schrag, editor and product manager, shares some thoughts from the Healthy Teen Network Conference in Austin, Texas.
I’ve been enjoying my time here at the Healthy Teen Network Conference in Austin. Highlights of Tuesday’s events included a brief awards ceremony that provided me with inspiration and thoughts for the day.
P3, the Georgia Public Private Partnership to Prevent Teen Pregnancy received the Outstanding Emerging Innovation Award, which motivated me to attend their session on Leading Collective Impact that afternoon. The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP) is the “backbone” organization of the P3 initiative. P3 has set a state goal to reduce teen pregnancy by 1/3 by 2020, and seem well on their way to achieving this through their innovative approach to working together on a common agenda. Their session was lively and informative about this model. I couldn’t help thinking that the principles could be applied on a smaller scale even within organizations themselves to help diverse departments with different areas of work come together in more meaningful ways to effect change.
The other two awards were also thought provoking, albeit in a different way. Corey Jones received the Outstanding Teen Parent Award. A youth advocate for the past ten years and currently a juvenile case manager for the Austin Municipal Court, he described making the difficult and life-changing decision at age 16 to remain in Austin while his mom moved to Michigan, so that he could be a father to his yet unborn daughter.
Following that, a group of seven young mothers received the Spirit of Service Award for #noteenshame, their online advocacy project that strives to reduce the stigma faced by teen parents. Brittany Chambers, one of the dynamic Kirby Interns working at ETR last summer, immediately came to mind. She also plans to work in this area, in part inspired by her personal experiences.
Throughout the day, I found my thoughts returning to this issue—in the drive and dedication to helping teens avoid pregnancy and parenting, it can be all too easy for programs to make it sound as if becoming a teen parent is the “end of the line” for a young person’s hopes and dreams and life accomplishments. All of these young people prove that just isn’t so.
The other session I was able to attend, Fostering Youth Resiliency, was a perfect complement to this train of thought. What is it that makes a 16 year old boy choose to stay behind when his family moves, so that he can be there for his child? How does a young woman navigate all the challenges of being pregnant at 15 to become a successful and effective youth advocate, with a thriving family and a Master’s degree?
Not only did I get to see some of ETR’s dynamic training principles in action (the session was presented by Stephanie Guinosso of ETR and Sarah Axelson of FYSB), but the concept of resiliency offers an interesting framework and is surely connected to certain young people’s ability to rise to the challenge, find purpose in their parenting and succeed in their lives, often becoming advocates and allies to other youth facing similar situations.
In between the sessions, I’m having fun manning (womaning?) the ETR booth at the conference. It’s not something I’d done before, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to hear where people are from, learn a little about their programs, and share some of our ETR resources. Pamphlet samples have been popular—lots of people are taking our new pamphlet on LARCs (Implants and IUDs)—as well as the condom kits and related materials.
Looking forward to day 2…