MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) According to the state health department, Alabama ranks 9th in the country when it comes to teen births. Mobile County has the highest teen birth rate out of all three major metropolitan counties.
"It's been that way for the last 10 years. Mobile has been consistently higher than the sate and consistently higher than the national birth rate," said Jillian Ransom,
According to state health department, the national rate of teen births for girls ages 15 to 19 is 31 per 1,000 teens.
In the state of Alabama it's 43 per 1,000, and in Mobile the rate is nearly 54 per 1,000 teens, roughly 5.4 percent of the teen population.
Jill Ransom works for the Mobile County Health Department's Teen Center. She says high teen births prompted the CDC to give the state a 4 million dollar grant to reduce teen birth rates by 10 percent in 5 years.
CDC research identified 13 target zip codes in Mobile County where an alarming number of students are carrying more than books.
"Well if you look at each of those 13. The highest one would be 36611 which is right there the in the Prichard Whistler area," said Ransom.
The tiny city of Prichard with a population just shy of 6,500 ranks number one in the county.
Local 15's Modupe Idowu caught up with Kejuan Boone, 17, as she was leaving school. She is a senior at Vigor. The school located in the heart of Prichard. She had her son at just 15-years-old.
"I had to step up and leave my childhood life and like I had to be a mom," said Boone.
She added, "I get up in the morning at 4 in the morning to make sure my baby clothes ready and ironed and make sure my clothes."
"It's like a second person, like a second body gotta get ready. It's challenging like you have to like grow up," said Boone.
Vigor student Breonna July is a youth volunteer with the Health Department's Teen Center. July stated about 15 Vigor students are currently pregnant and 15 to 20 are already parents. Many of them have just started their high school career.
July said, "Freshman and sophomores, It's a lot pregnant and I just want to know what make them do it."
With approximately 35 pregnant teens and teen parents, Vigor Parent Program Manager Melinda Jones said the school has struggled with students entering parenthood too early.
"Well we had a parent program manager meeting at Central Office, and the program was introduced through the Teen Center. And when I heard of the program I said I think that's something that Vigor can benefit from," said Jones.
Starting next month, Vigor's Civitan Club, in partnership with the Health Department, will pilot an all comprehensive sex education program after school called "Making Proud Choices."
The new partnership is designed to help keep students students and not parents.
"We're going to try to implement it throughout for the next five years, and it's going to be a subject through data review through the University of South Alabama," said Jones.
Historically, Mobile County Public Schools have taught abstinence for sex education, but the "Making Proud Choices Program proposes something new.
Ransom stated, "We are really pushing the use of evidence based programs to reduce teenage pregnancy within Mobile County."
She added, "They've been proven to be very effective with reducing teen birth rates."
Ransom said evidence based programs still have an abstinence based message, but it avoids using fear tactics and focuses on tested data.
"All of these programs that we've chosen for Mobile County have an abstinence program to them. So go beyond abstinence and they also talk about effective, consistent, and correct condom use as well as contraceptive use," said Ransom.
She stated there are some parents and school officials nervous about the outcome of giving students "too much information."
"We need to give the kids that information," said Ransom.
She added, "A lot of adults in our community equate information with permission to have sex, and that's not the case. Research has found that kids are very responsible."
Ransom describes the topic of sex as the huge elephant in the room. Sex permeates our culture. You can find it anywhere, in music, commercials, sitcoms, and movies. Despite how uncomfortable it may be, Ransom suggests parents talk to their teens about sex and its consequences.
"It hasn't been done. Culturally, this is the way it is. This is the social norm. You don't address the issue. You don't talk about it. You just move on and on. So we're losing too many young people, and we're losing too many kids to not talking about it.
Jill Ransom said the cycle of poverty will continue if parents continue to ignore that "awkward conversation."
"Then those teen parents, their children grow up and they become teen parents, and nobody is prepared to raise children and the cycle and the poverty and everything just continues. It's cyclical.
The program will be held after school hours and a parent consent form must be signed. To be clear, this is not a Mobile Public Schools sponsored program. Vigor's Civitan Club is piloting the program. Vigor in this case is housing it.
If you would like to tips on how to talk to your teens about sex, visit this website at thinkteen.org
. To see the number of pregnancies in your area by zip code, click on the document attached to this story.