Health Department partnership helping to prevent teen pregnancy in Bolingbrook
1/27/2020, 10:13 p.m.
When it comes to helping adolescents grow into healthy and happy adults, as a first lady once said, “it takes a village.” Selina Jones, who leads the Bolingbrook High School Junior S.T.A.R.S group, knows the value of surrounding her girls with a village. S.T.A.R.S. stands for “strong, thriving, abundant girls who shine.” The purpose of this group is to provide the tools and resources for the young ladies to become leaders and create their own pathways toward adulthood. The S.T.A.R.S group consists of 40-plus girls. Selina Jones is the founder of this group, and has been leading it since 2016.
Recently, the S.T.A.R.S group has joined forces with the WCHD (Will County Health Department) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), and is now also considered the Youth Leadership Council for the TPP program. In 2016, the Will County Health Department, through a five-year grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, collaborated with the Valley View School District to address the higher than average teen birth rate and STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) rate in Bolingbrook. As a part of this grant, the Will County Health Department was required to develop a youth leadership group, who would lend an important and critical youth voice towards initiatives to reduce teen pregnancies in Bolingbrook.
Selina Jones, who was already a member of the Will County Health Department’s Bolingbrook Alliance for Teen Pregnancy Prevention leadership group, graciously agreed to allow the Will County Health Department’s TPP program to adopt her S.T.A.R.S group as the Youth Leadership Council. It was a natural partnership, as Jones’ group has been providing valuable input towards TPP efforts since 2017.
“With S.T.A.R.S, I’m able to help these young women prepare for their futures with input from numerous local agencies,” Jones explained. “This helps with leadership and empowerment as they move on and grow. The Health Department is one of many agencies who are involved (others include Marquette Bank, Bolingbrook Bank and Trust, and Culvers). We are affiliated with the Bolingbrook Chamber, which has helped many of our S.T.A.R.S members find jobs in the area.”
The WCHD - S.T.A.R.S partnership has led to new growth for both the students and the TPP program. David Campbell, Will County Community Health Educator, teams up with Selina Jones to lead the Youth Leadership Council. During their first year, Campbell taught the teen pregnancy prevention curriculum to the group. “David has awesome spirit,” said Jones. “He’s a man, but communicates and relates so well to these young women, and really builds up their confidence.”
Manyah Chatman, a Bolingbrook High School senior and S.T.A.R.S. club officer, agrees. “He (Campbell) actually cares for us. As young women, it makes us want to do better. It helps make our paths to success smoother and easier.”
The WCHD – S.T.A.R.S partnership is branching out to more community-based activities, including having the group take a tour of the Will County Community Health Center’s Teen Clinic in Bolingbrook towards the end of the school year. The students would learn about the Teen Clinic, including its services, which include STD testing and treatment, and access to various types of birth control methods. In addition, they would also evaluate the Teen Clinic to determine its “adolescent friendliness level.” Adolescent friendliness includes things such as providing confidential services or having a welcoming, teen oriented waiting area. By increasing adolescent friendliness, teens are more likely to use the much-needed services.
“Preventing teen pregnancy within a community can be complicated due to the multiple variables that make a teen at risk for teen pregnancy in the first place,” said Campbell. “Giving our youth a voice, and hearing what they think and feel, will go far in solving the problem. This collaboration between the S.T.A.R.S group and the TPP Youth Leadership Council will help prevent teen pregnancies and give youth the tools they need to becoming healthy and happy adults.”
For more information on the Will County Health Department’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, go to https://willcountyhealth.org/teen-pregnancy-prevention-program/.