Designed and facilitated by NHF, Be a STAR girls is a school-based teen pregnancy prevention program for adolescent females at-risk for a first time pregnancy. The program focuses on healthy behaviors, family planning, skill development, communication, and goal oriented behavior to empower teen girls to prevent unplanned pregnancies and improve their overall health, well-being, and success in life.
We recently caught up with one of our Be a STAR graduates, Ty’Kese, before she headed off to college. Ty’kese epitomizes what Be a STAR is all about. She is a Successful Teen Acting Responsibly. Pregnancy and parenthood cause many young, promising teens to drop out of school. And dropping out of school can completely devastate their lives and shut down otherwise bright futures.
High school drop-outs face unemployment, poverty – and shorter lives. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a significant link between education and health. High school graduates live longer than high school dropouts. College graduates have even longer life spans, better access to health care, better dietary and health practices, and overall better health.
Ty’Kese is smart and interested in making a difference in others’ lives. She’s a vegetarian. She wants to study psychology and social work as an undergraduate and then earn her master’s degree. She prides herself on asking questions and being well informed in the classroom and in the world at large.
Ty’Kese was surprised when the social worker at her high school recommended she get involved with NHF’s Be a STAR girls program. Although she’d had a few pregnancy scares, she really didn’t think she was at-risk of becoming pregnant. Plus, helping to take care of her younger brother at home, she felt, gave her a good idea of what it would be like to be a young mother. It didn’t seem like it would be that hard.
The truth is she didn’t want anything to do with Be a STAR girls, but she sat in on one session and was hooked. She loved getting honest, factual information about health and sexuality. She loved being in an atmosphere where she could freely ask questions. She appreciated having the opportunity to learn more about her own body in a safe environment with other girls. And it was eye opening for her to have myths such as, "you can’t become pregnant when you have your period" debunked.
What is shocking is that Ty’Kese had taken several other health and sex education classes and said she learned more in just a couple of Be a STAR sessions than she ever learned before. Be a STAR prepared her for adulthood by giving her full information about her birth control options and helping her set forth her personal goals for the next two, five, and ten years.
The goal setting exercises caught her attention. Yes, she enjoyed helping take care of her little brother, but now she saw how completely different this would be from actually being a young mom. In one exercise, Ty’Kese created a daily schedule of what her life would be like as a parent. This “as if” schedule showed her an unending string of early mornings, grueling days, and the difficulty of getting someone to watch her baby while she went to school. She could see how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it would be to reach her goals in these circumstances.
Ty’Kese is more concerned, careful, and knowledgeable about birth control than she used to be. Her eyes are wide open. She pays attention to her own body and is self-aware. She wishes Be a STAR was required for all girls at her former high school.
She wants to be a mom one day, when she’s ready, perhaps in a decade, after she has completed her education and has a good job as a social worker. For now, Ty’Kese wants to enjoy being a student and focus on her goals for a life that will be filled with achievements and the prospect of long-term health.