TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – Governor Bryant told the lunchtime crowd at Tupelo’s First Baptist Church that it’s time to do something about the high rate of teen pregnancies in Mississippi.
“I’m just tired of it and I believe we can stop it,” Gov. Bryant said.
In 2010, Mississippi was number one in the nation with the highest rate of births to teen mothers.
Preventing and reducing pregancies among teenagers has been a priority since the governor took office last year. He formed the Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi Task Force and has been holding town hall meetings across the state encouraging communities to take action.
“A teen that is pregnant continues to act like a teen even though she’s pregnant and so we must do something about it, this is one thing nobody has been resistant of, it’s one thing Republicans, Democrats, white , black, every denomination, people in the healthcare industry, they understand we must get this under control if we are going to have a successful society,” he said.
A key aspect of the task force includes input from teenagers. Miss Tupelo Outstanding Teen Alivia Roberts shared how her faith, a stable home life and a program called True Love Waits , made a positive impact.
“As a successful graduate of this program, I received a ring I wear everyday as a reminder of my commitment to my faith and my higher power, Jesus Christ. The teachings I learned are imbedded in my mind because the consequences of teen pregnancy were taught in an appropriate manner,” Roberts said.
Of course not all teenagers have a stable home, and organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club are makiing a huge difference. In fact, there has not been a teen preganancy among local club members in four years.
“They build relationships with staff who are there, they are able to talk with someone to share problems,” said Zell Long of the NE Miss Boys and Girls Club.
Community leaders also say education is a key component to this strategy.
“The public needs to know about the number of teen pregancies, when more teen pregnancies occur, for example from 4 to 6 o clock in the afternoon, things of this type,” said Christi Webb of the Family Resource Center.
Speakers and sponsors of the town hall meeting say there’s no quick fix to the problem. They say the first step is to do what’s been done here, bring the issue out in the open, then they say it will take action and involvement from teachers, students, parents and churches.