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Federal grant allows TWU faculty to change young lives

Grant awarded to help prevent the rise of teen pregnancy in Dallas County  

RicksGolmanwithCreditKatie Olson, Editor-in-Chief 

According to a TWU press release, on September 14, an approximately $4.9 million dollar grant has been awarded from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services to the North Texas Alliance to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy in Dallas County.  

Two members of the Dallas campus, Social Work Associate Professor and Ph.D. Nila Ricks and Health Studies Assistant Professor and Ph.D. Mandy Golman are part of that coalition, contributing their skills and knowledge to educate teens and their families on preventing teenage pregnancy.  

In an email, Ricks explains that the program will implement an evidence based prevention program and community outreach for five zip codes in Dallas County, selected based on state and national rates. The grant will also be used to conduct yearly evaluations measuring the effectiveness of the programs.  

Ricks stated: “We have developed the North Texas Alliance to Prevent Teen Pregnancy  − (The Concilio, Girls Inc., Planned Parenthood of North Texas, and UT Southwestern Medical Center) − and have devised a strategic multifaceted plan. Through our evaluation, we are hoping to see 20% reduction in teen birth rates in these areas.” 

This plan includes an evidence-based family approach to teen pregnancy with a strong emphasis on communication, including both female and male teens. Ricks emphasizes that this approach is sensitive to the teenagers in those five zip codes. 

She explained: “Adolescents most at risk are those who live in impoverished communities. These communities often lack adequate resources, contain single parent families, low educational achievement, high teen birth rates.”  

Ricks adds that many critical factors that contribute to teen pregnancy include:  

  • Adolescent peer pressure  
  • Inadequate comprehensive prevention and education 
  • Lack of knowledge and access to contraceptives  
  • The media  
  • Lack of parental guidance in communicating with adolescents  

As a former teen parent, Ricks understands the challenges that these adolescents encounter.  

Ricks shared: “It is a difficult experience, and not all teens have the wherewithal, nor resources, to overcome the myriad of challenges that they face. Ultimately, the cycle perpetuates to the next generation.”  

She added: “My goal as a practitioner and an academic is to empower teenagers and their families with the knowledge, skills and resources to make healthy choices. I see this grant as a vital opportunity to impact teen birth rates in these five communities.” 

With the combination of experience and collaboration, Ricks and Golman will work together with the North Texas Alliance in educating adolescents and their families while evaluating the effectiveness of the program. In doing so, the two faculty members hope to make an impact on the Dallas community.  

Ricks concluded: “Overall, I hope to see the teen pregnancy rates in these five zip codes drop drastically. I also hope that through the programs, that adolescent gain confidence, knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy choices.” 

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