ROSE HILL — Kathie Davidson learned about the struggles of a teenage parent when her son became a father at the age of 16.
Davidson is currently educating male and female students at Union High School through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), thanks to the efforts of Academic Abundance, Inc.
“I wish someone would have told my son all the things that I tell these students,” Davidson said about refusal skills, delay tactics, birth control and avoiding sexual transmitted diseases. “They have enough hurdles in their life that they can’t avoid. Pregnancy and STDs is a hurdle that they can avoid.”
As the program coordinator and primary instructor, she’s working with students to help them avoid those hurdles.
Dr. Kenneth E. Benton, a pastor of West Clinton OFWB Church, started the nonprofit in 2010 in Goldsboro. He’s assisted by his wife Dr. Marilyn Benton. Together, the lifelong educators recognized the need for the service in eastern North Carolina, which provides a better life for people.
“Improved lives leads to better communities,” Marilyn said. “As a nonprofit, we’re not just focused on just one area. We’re focused on making sure that if we can have a part in educating people and giving them more information, it’s going to bring about a better quality of life for all of us.”
To prove her point, she referenced a portion of Hosea 4:6 — “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
In addition to pregnancy prevention efforts, some of Academic Abundance, Inc. services have included literacy projects, domestic violence awareness and dropout prevention.
For the past seven years, Academic Abundance, Inc. spent time focusing on teenage pregnancy prevention. Through a partnership with Sampson County Schools, the organization was awarded a $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. With the funds, teen pregnancy prevention sessions have been held at Hobbton High School and Sampson Early College High School.
The lessons have reached more than 925 students during their health or physical education classes. For the current semester, Union High School freshman are taking prevention classes, with the permission of their parents. A Community Advisory Council, consisting of Sampson County health agencies and school officials, are also involved.
The Bentons emphasized that state officials provide an outline for the curriculum and evidence-based program, which has a 97 percent rate of student participation. Through conversations with students, Davidson said it’s having a positive effect on students.
“To give them that knowledge and refusal skills, they can use that in all areas of their life,” Davidson said. “Drugs, alcohol, smoking, joining gangs — how to tell people no without making them mad in any relationship. It’s a program they can use in so many areas of their lives, not just with their romantic partners.”
An important part of the curriculum is the Three E’s: education, employment and enjoyment.
“If you’re a teen parent, you’re going to have a hard time getting those good grades that you need to get into college,” Davidson said. “If you do get into college, it’s going to be harder with that baby between classes. And that may affect getting that dream job that you want.”
She added that her son was successful, but it came with challenges. Davidson’s grandson is now 19 and she has several talks with him. “When you get in the car with grandma and you’re driving 55 mph down the road, you’re going to listen whether you want to or not.”
During the program, evaluations are held to make sure guidelines are being followed. According to state indicators, program officials stated that the rate of teen pregnancy was reduced in Sampson County since the program began.
“What you’re trying to do through the whole initiative is help students with their decision-making skills,” Marilyn said regarding choices and possible outcomes for teens.
Kenneth said abstinence is just one decision, along with refusing or just saying “no.”
“I think those kind of personal skills are a good thing — plus we talk about prevention and diseases,” he said. “This is a review of all the things that can be done and we’re trying to talk about prevention at an early age. To us, that’s an important thing.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.