Interview with OAH Tier 1B partner

Amanda Leeson, Upstate Capacity Building Specialist, interviewed April Moore at Anderson Alternative School to discover what April had learned through working with the SC Campaign (now Fact Forward) and by attending our teen pregnancy prevention workshops.  Anderson Alternative School is a community partner participating in the Office of Adolescent Health's Tier 1B grant program. 

Amanda: How long have you worked with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy? 

April: Since about March of 2015. 

Amanda: Tell us about your work with us and what you have learned as a result. 

April: Okay, so although I work at an alternative school setting, I was under the impression that our students needed a values-based class and I initially thought that talking to them about pregnancy prevention, contraception, STDs and those kind of things might even encourage them to have sex more or sooner. But I learned from the campaign that there are statistics that show this isn’t the case at all. Talking to students about contraception does not cause them to engage in sexual intercourse sooner, it does however increase the likelihood that they’ll use protection, delay tactics and set up goals and plans so that they can reach their life goals. So they gain an understanding that unwanted pregnancy could greatly interfere with their path and it helps them set in place a plan to help them stay the course. 

I was also uncomfortable with addressing the issues related to LGTBQ inclusivity, but since I’ve attended the trainings I feel more knowledgeable, I have a greater understanding and I feel like I can be helpful or at least help steer those students in the right direction of somebody who can help them if I can’t. 

Amanda: Awesome. So tell us about some of the challenges that you’ve had as you’ve implemented programs, participated in trainings with the SC Campaign and otherwise in working with reproductive health. 

April: Okay, I think initially the biggest thing was my comfort level even walking into the trainings. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I didn’t quite know—am I going to be expected to say this or answer this way? But I mean, after this first training I was at a whole new level of comfort with it all. Everybody was very encouraging and I felt very supported. If someone didn’t know the answer to my question right off the bat, they would go get somebody who did. So I think that’s a big positive that increased my comfort level in asking things that I might not have felt comfortable asking otherwise. 

So another [challenge] is in implementing the program, kids ask crazy questions. So it was really helpful in the trainings for some of the people who have facilitated before to put down some real life questions people have asked. Even looking at [a question] on the card or having other people read it, I’m like, “oh dear God, if I’m in front of a class and they ask me this I’m gonna turn red.” But I got really comfortable with it and now I’m not intimidated by anything they could ask me. I feel like very confident in being able to talk about whatever or answer appropriately. 

Amanda: Right, that’s awesome. So how did you overcome the challenges and how did the SC Campaign support you? 

April: Mostly by going to trainings and talking to you guys. I mean it was helpful to look at and read the curriculum, and it was helpful to do some of the online stuff, but it was mostly the interaction with the people from the campaign that increased my comfort level and helped me overcome the challenges. Even in the trainings for example, when I was facilitating the other day a kid asked me a question and I needed a minute to process before I answered it. So I went back to the “for some, for others, for you” [part of the training] and there are just some things like that, that I never would have known otherwise and like I said, it was fine. I felt good about it. 

Amanda: It was a tool in your toolbox to use to answer that question appropriately.    

April: That’s right. 

Amanda: So how has this partnership with the campaign benefited your students and community? 

April: I think it’s made our school community closer and just the community in general. Being at the alternative school, we serve all the schools but we're not necessarily included in certain trainings or things like that, that may be mandatory within that district. So this has kind of taken away those lines and we’ve all sort of worked together as a true community, as a county, in addressing the issue. So there have been no politics, it’s erased all that and we’ve been able to just get in there and deal with what was going on together. 

Amanda: It’s truly has been a team effort here in Anderson County. 

April: It really has, and not even just with the school too. With you guys and with United Way, I mean like I said, my comfort level in contacting any of you guys is great. 

Amanda: That’s awesome. 

April: So, it’s pretty cool. 

Amanda: So what advice would you give to other professionals working with teens regarding teen pregnancy prevention? 

April: I would advise them to be open-minded. Don’t not do it just because you’re not sure if you can address certain issues or questions. Don’t be afraid of it.  You know, we all have our frame of reference and our own personal beliefs, but you can teach this and you can help kids without violating any of their belief systems or your own. There’s a way to learn how to do that and the campaign teaches you that, and like I said, you just feel very confident addressing all those things. So I never feel like I violated my own thoughts or belief system and I’ve become more knowledgeable about others which of course just grows tolerance and understand, and it’s just good all the way around. So I would just say be open-minded and don’t let your own frame of reference or belief system even be a barrier. 

Amanda: That’s awesome. Are there any other comments that you would like to share? 

April: Just that I appreciate the South Carolina Campaign and I wish that the grant funding was still gonna be there for as long as initially planned or longer because I can truly see the benefit. I can see the benefit in talking to our kids about it and even us as a staff, you know, I can see the benefit for us to learn those kind of things. For example, not this coming teacher work day but the next one, the whole staff is going to do trauma-informed care provided by the teen pregnancy prevention [program]. 

Amanda: Oh, awesome! 

April: Yeah, so that was such an amazing training that I felt very strongly that our whole staff needed it. We’ve done the ACES [Adverse Childhood Experiences] stuff and all those things, but just the way that it [Trauma-Informed Care] was presented I was like, we need to have these things at the forefront of our minds. You guys have provided that to us as an entire staff and I just think that those kind of things are really beneficial to us and to our kids. So I just wish that the grant was continuing even longer but we’re gonna keep doing the work regardless 

Amanda: Awesome, awesome. That’s right, that’s what we like to hear. Okay, well thank you so much. 

April: Thank you.