Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the state, representing the Board of Directors of the Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc. (DAPI) at a series of “empowerment breakfasts.” These breakfasts, loosely based on a national fundraising model, were designed to introduce new friends – and re-introduce old friends – to the Delaware Adolescent Program, an education alternative for pregnant and parenting teens.
Together with Board Chair June Griffith-Stepp and DAPI Executive Director Lucy O’Donnell, I listened to several DAPI graduates share their amazing – and often heart-wrenching – stories of struggle and success and heard dynamic, uplifting remarks from our guest speakers, the Reverend Dr. Christopher Bullock, DSU President Harry Williams and State Representative Tim Dukes.
The DAPI Empowerment Breakfasts gave attendees real insight into the challenges teen parents and their families face and showed all of us in attendance how we can help these new parents on the path to success.
Today is a National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and that may surprise some, as teen pregnancy no longer seems to be the pressing issue it was when DAPI was founded 45 years ago. Today’s students face a new host of challenges: Bullying, substance abuse, absentee parents, domestic violence and more.
Despite its decidely lower profile, teen pregnancy and its related issues still cost Delaware a whopping $35 million annually. And when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that many of the students who enroll with DAPI are often those who bully or have been bullied; who have direct experience with substance abuse; who come from disruptive home environments and who have been or are currently in an abusive relationship.
Through DAPI, these students get a second chance at success through education and empowerment so they can graduate high school, support themselves and raise their children to succeed, as well.
So today, I encourage us to not only recognize the importance of preventing unplanned teen pregnancies, but to take a moment to think about how we can empower those teen parents with the education and skills they need to succeed.