Teen Pregnancy & STI Prevention
In the fall of 2021, the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services invited the Prevention Partnership to submit a Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) application to provide sex education in Chicago's south suburbs. While teen pregnancy rates had been decreasing in these communities, sexually transmitted infections were increasing, indicating that young people were engaging in unsafe practices which put their sexual health at risk. Our application was successful, and implementation began the same year the Illinois Comprehensive Sex Education Law was signed banning abstinence-only sex education in Illinois public schools.
The evidence-based curriculum selected for this effort is Be Proud! Be Responsible! a six-module curriculum designed to help young people change behaviors that place them at risk of HIV, STIs and pregnancy. Curriculum and adult preparation sessions (Healthy Relationships, Career Success, and Financial Literacy) are intended to delay initiation of sex among sexually inexperienced youth, to reduce unprotected sex among sexually active youth, and to help young people make proud and responsible decisions about their sexual behaviors. A Teen Pregnancy and STI Resource Guide is updated annually and distributed to over 3,000 students and the community at large.
Service delivery began in 2012 with an all-day retreat for over 200 sophomore girls at Rich South High School in Richton Park. Since then, the project has provided comprehensive sex education programming for some 3,000 Rich Township High School District 227 students in the District’s three high schools: Fine Arts and Communications Campus (formerly Rich South), STEM Campus, Olympia Fields (formerly Rich Central), and Rich East, Park Forest (closed in 2019). Student evaluation summaries indicate that the overwhelming majority learned new information and intend to utilize this information when making decisions about their sexual behavior. We were always pleased about the high numbers of students giving positive responses regarding abstinence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed challenged effective delivery of sex education services. Shut down came in the middle of a cycle in March of 2013 and put us all on a new learning curve; the District first attempted to use Zoom as the access platform and later switched to Google Classrooms. Differing class lengths (30, 45, 60, 80, and 120 minutes) presented a particular challenge to our efforts to insure all participating students receive the full range of services and content actively engaged students. Fortunately, project staff are adapt technologically and switched to digital presentations with only a few hiccups. One cycle of five classes has already been completed for the Spring 2021 semester; two additional cycles are planned for April and May 2021.
Shellie A. Coleman
Director of Youth Services