May 18, 2012
Open for five years, Bibb County's Teen Scene Youth Center (TSYC) will close in June due to state and federal budget cuts. Director Valerie Hicks worries the move will leave at-risk area youths without the resources they need to avoid pregnancy, drugs and other concerns.
"We can't improve those [teen pregnancy] numbers if we can't get the kids and educate them," said Hicks, who runs adolescent health and youth development programs for the 13-county North Central Health District, which includes Bibb County. Hundreds of teens have been helped by TSYC since 2007, and during that time just one became pregnant, she noted.
Hicks said teens and their parents have benefitted from TSYC. "We expose kids to the possibilities they can have in academics -- what they say 'yes' to, not just what they say 'no' to. We do tutoring every day. There's a health component, and we [address the areas] they're at risk for -- obesity, tobacco, drugs, and alcohol." Parents have had to take part in regular sessions as a condition of enrolling their children in TSYC. "[What is taught] had to be supported and taught at home," she said.
The idea for the teen centers was introduced in 1997, when Georgia's teen pregnancy rate was among the highest in the nation. Since the program launched, Georgia has made "tremendous progress" against teen pregnancy, Hicks said. Due to federal budget cuts, Georgia is closing all 30 of its teen centers and half of its 18 adolescent health and youth development programs, though not the one in Bibb.