For the first time this fall, teenagers at Loyola Academy are being trained to help their peers avoid teen pregnancy.
At the end of a semester of training the students will begin teaching ¡Cuidate!, a voluntary teen pregnancy prevention curriculum geared to Hispanic girls and boys. ¡Cuidate!, which began in 2010, is available only at Loyola Academy, operated by the Council for the Spanish Speaking. Topics include healthy relationships, sexual violence and self-esteem.
Five girls and two boys from Loyola, 1645 S36th St., are meeting three hours a week to learn presentation and teaching skills, as well as to study issues related to teen pregnancy.
The seven student leaders in the training program, Healthy Youth Leadership Institute, will use these skills to be peer educators and mentors. “They will engage in leadership-building activities, community-building activities and sexual health education,” said Julie Rothwell, Healthy Girls Initiative manager.
Olivia Madridal, a Loyola sophomore is now in the training class for ¡Cuidate!, has participated in the United Way Healthy Girls program since May 2010. Madridal noted that many students prefer to hear from people their own age rather than from adults.
The training program is funded by United Way of Greater Milwaukee, which started the Healthy Girls Initiative in 2001 to promote good health and well being for Milwaukee’s young people. In addition to Loyola, other agencies participating in the Healthy Girls Initiative are Boys and Girls Clubs, COA Youth and Family Centers, Neu-Life Community Resource Center, Pathfinders, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center and UMOS Latina Resource Center.
United Way also sponsored a four-day leadership camp last summer, which taught participants how to present themselves in public and behave appropriately, said senior Cassandra Martinez, one of the Loyola student leaders.
In addition to after-school activities and the teen pregnancy curriculum, ¡Cuidate!, offers monthly meetings with parents and their children. A survey of Latino teens and adults conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that Latinas were less likely to talk to their parents about sex than other teen girls.
According to Gonzalez, when parents recall their own experiences as teenagers, it helps them understand their children’s viewpoint about teen pregnancy and allows them to have conversations with their children on the subject.
¡Cuidate! is just one element in the effort to prevent teen pregnancy. “Just talking about sexuality doesn’t work,” Gonzalez said.
“You need other services. [You need to] take them to college, take them to places they have never been before, and give them hope for the future,” said Gonzalez. “If they have hope and know they want to go to school, they are more likely to follow their dreams and not get pregnant,” Gonzalez added.
This year, Loyola ¡Cuidate! students also will be involved in Baby Think It Over, operated by the Social Development Commission, and Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES!), a program of Voces de la Frontera.
If Truth be Told, a United Way report on Milwaukee’s teen pregnancy crisis, found that at least 53 percent of Latina youth and half of African-American girls nationally will become pregnant before the age of 20, compared to 19 percent of non-Hispanic white females.