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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Teen pregnancy has decreased dramatically over the last two decades in the US but teen pregnancy rates in Mississippi remain high.

Lonni Wright is just one of thousands of Mississippi teens who become pregnant each year.

“I was 15 and a single parent. I worked but yeah, it’s hard. I was stressed and there alone,” says Wright.

Wright now participates in the Teen Parent Coalition in Starkville that teaches parenting and life skills. The Coalition emphasizes the responsibilities of being a parent.

Latoya Robinson is now 24 and says most teens have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

“It’s a lot because you have to deal with a lot with your child. They want to do their thing and then you want to do your thing but you’ve had a child. So you can’t do what you really want to do anymore like go to the club and do all of that but you have responsibility. So you have to do what you got to do,” says Robinson.

When a teenager becomes pregnant, plans for higher education and careers are often derailed.

“I wanted to go to college. I got pregnant. I was pulling doubles, triples at Sprint Mart. I worked there for 3 1/2 years and my ex-husband has my baby right now,” says Ashley Walker. Walker is a member of the Teen Parent Coalition and had her child at 19.

This school year, the Mississippi Department of Education will allow districts to teach a new sex education program that emphasizes the health risks of unprotected sex along with abstinence.

In 2011, nearly 40,000 babies were born in Mississippi with 5,400 of those births given by teenage mothers.

On Tuesday in part 2 of our special report, WCBI will speak with the Director of the Teen Parent Coalition about the work they do and hear more from the teen moms.

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