Sharing Stories: A Path to Understanding Teens’ Choices

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Earlier today, one of our Teen Health Now members, Delsie Bailey, was featured on The Story with Dick Gordon. The Story is a nationally syndicated NPR radio program that features one-on-one interviews with everyday people.

Delsie’s story is a powerful one, especially for parents. She also talks very emotionally about letting her parents down, about her church’s reaction, Delsie was a straight-A student from Johnston County, NC, with plans to go to Harvard. about making the choice to keep her baby, and more. It points to the common ground that pregnancy prevention offers to people of all political and religious backgrounds. It also provides great insight into the very human day-to-day emotions and challenges of being pregnant at 17.

A recording of Delsie’s interview has been posted online (it’s starts about 40 minutes in). Listen Here.

Here’s the brief version of Delsie’s background: Delsie was a straight-A student from Johnston County, NC, with plans to go to Harvard. She did not get sex education, and her religious parents only told her to wait until marriage to have sex. Her boyfriend convinced her to have unprotected sex. She got pregnant. She joined a state-funded Adolescent Parenting Program, which helped her get back on track. Now she’s a UNC student who volunteers with us to advocate for sex education. (If you’re a UNC student, you’ve probably seen her handing out condoms in The Pit.) Her daughter Faith just turned three.

We listened to Delsie’s interview as a staff, and it got us talking about the importance of teens sharing their stories. Delsie talks at length about how she wish she had waited to have sex. Those of us who know her also know she’s a huge proponent of using protection. It’s important for teens and adults, alike, to hear her story.

We also need to hear from safe teens, though. Last month I attended the Guilford County Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting (GCAPP) community forum. One young man – a high school senior – stood up to talk about his promotion of safe sex. As a freshman in high school, his girlfriend had had a pregnancy scare. Upon confessing this to his grandfather, the grandfather sat him down to tell him that he had been given a second chance and stressed the importance of protection. Now he uses protection and he tells his friends, “If you’re not mature enough to go to Walgreens and buy a condom, you’re not mature enough to have sex.”

Personal stories are an important prevention tool. Most often, though, we hear from teens whose stories mirror Delsie’s or from teens who proudly announce a pledge to stay abstinent. What we need to hear more of are real stories from teens making realistic, healthy choices, including the fact that they use contraception.


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