L.O.F.T.Y. Goal in Preventing Teen Pregnancy
5/2/2014, 10:48 a.m.
ATLANTA – When Lenonya Beebe took her teenage daughter Winifrid to the doctor to get her started on birth control, both mother and child never figured it would already be too late.
“The doctor came back out and she was looking kinda funny,” Beebe recalled. “She told me to come into a room, and said, ‘[Winifrid] is pregnant.’ And when she told me that, I started crying.”
Seriously considering abortion as an option, Beebe inquired about how far along her daughter was in pregnancy, but the doctor told her that Winifrid was close to six months pregnant. Any notion of terminating the baby was thrown out the window at that point.
Fifteen-year-old Winifrid, a Benjamin E. Mays High School ninth grade student, is just10 weeks away from giving birth now.
“I only had sex once,” she said. “And that one time, I had a consequence.”
The petite girl, with a warming shy smile and red fiery braids, could easily be lost in the shuffle of the busy hallways of her school, if wasn’t for her protruding belly.
“This morning, my classmates were talking about how in 8th grade, everyone was in class talking about all the sexual stuff that they did,” Beebe said, as she innocently doodled on a plain sheet of paper. “And I was the only one without a story to tell, because I was still a virgin. I always planned to be a virgin till I got married.”
Now, Winifred shares an oft too familiar story of how one action can impact so many lives, as an unborn life is being created.
This is the very scenario that Keri Pridgeon, vice president of the Center for Black Women’s Wellness, is striving to help adults and teenagers avoid via teen health workshops, such as “For Me” and L.O.F.T.Y. (Looking Out for the Youth).
“[Pregnancy is] so life-changing,” Pridgeon said. “You can appreciate parenthood a whole lot more when you’re prepared. To have to put on this hat of unselfishness, before you’re ready, adds a great deal of stress.”
In 2010, the CBWW began its federally funded program, replicating an evidence-based teen pregnancy awareness and HIV prevention curriculum. “For Me” is a six-week workshop (one hour each session), where the CBWW goes into an Atlanta-metro school and teaches teens how to discuss healthy relationships focused on making the best decisions “for me.”
Following the completion of the six weeks, the teens can then apply to be a part of a youth leadership council entitled L.O.F.T.Y., designed to give teens autonomy in developing activities and material, in order to spread the word about being responsible when it comes to sexual behavior. The council meets for 90 minutes every week for six months.
“Sex is a big risk,” 18-year-old Odyssey Wilson, a Mays HS senior, said. “My problem lies when you don’t know, as far as when you’re taking this risk, you don’t know the consequences. And L.O.F.T.Y. provided me with information, so that I’m more cautious about the decisions that I make, as well as making my friends more cautious.”