During Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, celebrated each May, we turn our attention to our teen pregnancy prevention programs. These services are critically important in encouraging young people to develop life-long goals, helping them to understanding the consequences of their actions and supporting them as they realize their potential.
Harold Edelstein had a simple wish: to help individuals who needed it most through programs that deliver immediate, maximum effect. In the years since his passing, The Harold Edelstein Foundation has funded National Health Foundation’s Be A Star and Harold Cares About Your Future programs, which provide pregnancy prevention education and support to at-risk young men and women in participating Los Angeles high schools. Harold would be deeply proud of the roughly 680 graduates to-date.
Today, the foundation is run by three trustees; Fred Simmons, Marvin Burns, and Susan Rothenberg. Fred Simmons is the trustee we know best. Over the years, we have worked closely with him and he has tirelessly championed our teen pregnancy prevention education programs, which the Foundation seeded. The foundation eschews long grant application processes in favor of deeply personal relationships with the programs they choose to support. Simmons understands that teen parenthood leads to lower graduation rates and limited options, and he is passionate about giving underserved young men and women a fighting chance for a better life. His eagerness to make a positive difference in others’ lives is a living embodiment of Harold’s wish. This is not surprising since Harold Edelstein and Fred Simmons knew one another for over 30 years.
This year’s Be a Star Boys and Be a Star Girls programs were held at five high schools throughout Los Angeles. The programs work directly with young men and women who have been identified as at-risk of becoming teen parents and dropping out of high school. The 10-week prevention curriculum promotes responsible behavior and empowers youth to make a commitment to their futures by avoiding risky behavior and focusing on values such as integrity, accountability, self-determination, and goal-setting. The program provides individual services, strong linkages to community resources, and peer group education sessions at partner school sites.
For young women who are pregnant or parenting while in high school, the Harold Cares About Your Future program coordinates community resources and offers strategies to prevent subsequent pregnancies to young women at two Los Angeles high schools. At the same time, this program supports participating students as they set academic goals and pursue educational interests and opportunities.
The success rate of the program provides a strong argument for further programming: At six-month follow ups, 91% of the teen girls who went through the Harold Cares program were still in school or had graduated. When compared to the Los Angeles Unified School District overall dropout rate of approximately 17%, that’s an 8% improvement. Even more, only 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22; these young women are soaring above that statistic. In addition, the teens who participated in the Harold Cares program showed a 5% rise, from 81% to 86%, in their recognition that a high school diploma was important. Perhaps most heartening is the fact that 100% of the teen girls who went through Harold Cares program were not pregnant (or pregnant again) at follow-up six months later.
At a recent program graduation, all of the girls received gifts with “Harold Cares About Your Future” printed on them. They wanted to know who Harold Edelstein was and were a little sad and surprised to hear he was long dead. However, they expressed a deep gratitude for the foundation’s continued efforts to honor Harold by caring so deeply for them. Meanwhile at the Be A Star boys program graduation, participants were given a necktie as symbol of their having learned to put their best foot forward. The young men, equipped with sharpened decision making skills and a deeper sense of self-confidence about their futures, were excited to dress the part, as well.