Program works to lower teen pregnancies and STI's - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Program works to lower teen pregnancies and STI's

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Stephanie Chase was only 16 when she got pregnant with her son.

"I was scared, nervous and didn't know what to do," Chase said.

Now at 18, Chase knows the ups and downs of motherhood.

"I raise my son on my own so the struggles would be like not being able to do what I want to do. Quitting school twice, now going back a year after I was suppose to graduate. Just an everyday thing with a one year old," said Chase.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Chase is just one of more than 3,000 Iowa teen mothers, but Chase hopes to help educate others by sharing her story. She is part of a panel of young moms who go to local schools to educate teenagers.

"We talk to 7th and 8th grade consumer science classes," Chase said.

More than 3,000 Iowa teens found themselves pregnant in 2010 and 170 of those teens were in Black Hawk County according to IDPH.

Black Hawk County also has the worst rate of sexually transmitted infections or STI's in Iowa, but there's an effort underway to curb those numbers.

"It discusses an array of issues...sexual coercion, negotiation skills, how to communicate with parents, abstinence, birth control, of course STI's," Together for Youth Coordinator Joni Spencer said.

Together for Youth is a group that looks into adolescent sexual health issues and provides education. They basically start a conversation with teens about sex.

"What we did is we started creating prevention programs and utilizing curriculum and developing our own curriculum to take into the local schools, faith communities, youth serving agencies that we could then provide programming for initial pregnancies," Spencer said.

Spencer says teens want their parents to ask them questions about sex. Chase says she wishes she had been asked more questions.

"I love my son more than anything. I would never regret it, but I wish I would have waited. If I could have the same baby, just five years down the road," Chase said.

The Cedar Valley United Way uses donated money to support agencies and programs that address community needs in three areas: education, health and income. In the coming days The Courier and KWWL will team up to share some of the programs' success stories. The organization is currently attempting to raise $3.2 million to fund those programs, though need has been estimated to be about $4 million. The campaign ends Jan. 31. Donations are accepted online at www.cedarvalleyunitedway.org or can be mailed to Cedar Valley United Way, 425 Cedar St., Suite 300, Waterloo, IA, 50701.

In Tuesday's Courier, read about the Women to Women Career Mentoring Program, which pairs successful Cedar Valley women with non-traditional female students at Hawkeye Community College.

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