Tackling Teen Pregnancy in Rockland Maine

Author’s Note: From time to time, On the Front Lines features an FPA program. This week — the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in Rockland.

Like many Maine communities, Rockland has a teen pregnancy rate higher than the state average. However, while several towns have seen their teen pregnancy rates decrease sharply in the past decade, Rockland is one of the few towns whose rate has remained consistently high — at more than double the state average.

Enter Keegan Ross.

A recent graduate of Rockland District High School, Keegan is a natural leader — he served as Senior Class President and Student Senate Treasurer. Even as a busy senior, Keegan still felt a need to take on another role — to increase awareness about his hometown’s high teen pregnancy rate.

Together with the Student Senate and School Nurse, Ilmi Carter, Keegan organized and spearheaded a week-long project to bring teen pregnancy prevention awareness and education to his fellow students.The awareness week included lunchtime education sessions, an after-school screening of the movie Juno followed by a discussion about teen pregnancy, and a student survey.

Over 300 students completed the survey and the results are really interesting. Sixty-six percent of students say they feel comfortable talking with their parents about sexual health issues. And 77% of students say there is a need for family planning services at their school.

Keegan’s project at Rockland District High School is just one part of a much bigger story.

Since the fall of 2009, the FPA has been coordinating the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in Rockland. This initiative is a pro-active, multi-year community engagement and intervention effort designed to effect real change for Rockland’s teens.

The project includes collaboration among local schools, the health care community, including Rockland Family Planning, and social service providers such as the Teen and Young Parent Program of Knox County and Youthlinks/Broadreach.

With transformational support from summer residents, David and Beverly Worthington, our project in Rockland includes:

  • staff training, expert guidance, curriculum consultation, and material support for Rockland school staff, faculty, and administration
  • coordination of community stakeholder meetings that include guest speakers on the topic of teen pregnancy
  • direct support to Rockland teens who need sexual health information

FPA staff member Rilla Bray serves as the Project Coordinator for this initiative.

Having worked in the Rockland community for more than 20 years, Rilla is a familiar face to many youth and adults involved with schools, youth-serving organizations and health care providers in the Rockland community.

In the coming year we hope to engage more parents in the initiative and create more meaningful community-wide conversations about the issue of teen pregnancy.

What suggestions do you have for Rilla and other people — like Keegan — who are trying to reduce teen pregnancy in their own community?

~ Nancy

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