Jefferson County is among the top two or three counties in the state, statistically, with a high teen pregnancy rate.
And, notes Michelle Price, volunteer area director for YoungLives Jefferson County, West Virginia itself is among the top five states in the country. “You can infer that Jefferson County has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation,” Price said. “Only three percent of teen moms will have a college degree by age 30. Only two percent of teen fathers see their child at least once a month. Eighteen months after the first child, the teen mother is likely to be pregnant again.
That’s where YoungLives comes in.
“At YoungLIves, we want these girls to know they don’t have to be one of those statistics,” she said.
YoungLives is a nonprofit, Christian-based organization that promotes abstinence and is dedicated to meeting the relational and emotional needs of teen moms in order to help the girls stay in school, develop parenting skills and become healthy, independent women.
“We want to help the girls in this situation to connect with the material and medical support that they need, but we also want to give them encouragement, friendships with other teen moms and unconditional love from a committed mentor,” Price said.
YoungLives reaches out to pregnant teenage girls and teen mothers through a one-on-one mentoring program with adult women who commit to the lives of a teenager and her baby for one year. These mentors work to model healthy parenting and life skills that promote personal growth and responsibility, said Price, whose personal experience led her to volunteer at YoungLives.
“My mom was a teen mom, and if it wasn’t for the strength of my mom and the help from my grandparents, my sisters and I would be in the same boat,” she said.
When the local YoungLives started in August 2010, five girls participated. By December of that year, there were 37. In the last 90 days, YoungLives Jefferson County has met with 46 girls between the ages of 14 and 20 who are either pregnant or parenting.
One reason teen pregnancy is so common, is that it is generational, Price said.
Currently meeting at Harvest Pointe Church in Charles Town on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the group meets for dinner, discussion, presentations and games. Child care is provided.
In addition to the Tuesday meeting, YoungLives offers a 30 minute parenting lunch at the high schools twice a month. Topics covered include how to get a baby on a schedule and how to transition from breast feeding or formula to baby food.
YoungLives is nondenominational and girls do not have to be a Christian to participate.
“We share with them and love them when no else will. We give these teen mothers a safe place to talk, learn and laugh, “ Price said.
One recent presentation to the teen moms was by a national health care provider that offered free college classes to girls interested in a health care career.
“Two girls accepted,” Price said. “This will be life-changing for them. They will earn money, get health care and have free tuition. We want the girls to finish high school and get some type of secondary education, trade school or specialized training so they can lead a more stable life.”
Ashley Dillow said YoungLives helped improve her life.
“They were there for me when no one else was,” said Dillow, 20, and the mother of a three-year-old son. “They believed in me and pushed me to do good. I’m now a hard worker, a great mother, a great friend. I go to school and attend church … I plan to get my own place, become a registered nurse and provide for my son and myself.”
YoungLives of Jefferson County is hosting a fundraising banquet on Tuesday, March 27 at the St. James Catholic Church Social Hall. The coffee social begins at 6 p.m. and the dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Call Michelle Price for sponsorship and ticket information 304-731-5919. Also visit YoungLives Jefferson County on Facebook.