Committee raises awareness of teen pregnancy

By Tova Fruchtman: Quay county Sun

Tucumcari High School Senior Danny Benavidez presented a long list of things a baby needs in a power point presentation to his class on Wednesday.

From love to lotion, Benavidez knows from experience. He has a six month old son.

“I learned that its hard. It’s not easy like everyone thinks,” Benavidez said. “Being a parent — there’s a lot of responsibility because your in charge of another person’s
life.”

Benavidez is not alone in being a teen parent.

According to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health 25 babies were born to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 in Quay County in 2002. In 2001, Quay County ranked first in the state for teen pregnancy rates at 92.5.
May is Teen Pregnancy Awareness month. Benavidez is a member of the a Teen Pregnancy Committee, of community members, teachers and high school students. He volunteered to create his presentation for his Family Living Class as part of his involvement in the group.

The group, which is sponsored by the Elks Lodge, met Wednesday to discuss recording public service announcements on the radio to try and curb the teen pregnancy problem in the area.

Students Georgia Scalf and Cassie Mowles wrote their own announcement to be played on the radio throughout the month.

The group is also planning a door decorating contest on May 12 at Tucumcari High School to raise awareness of teen pregnancy.

Gail Balzano, who teaches child development, family living and culinary arts at the school, said she has been involved in the organization because she thinks the issue is very important.

“I think there a need to get information out to teens,” she said.

Quay County is making progress. The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator and Family Planning Program recently announced that Quay County was one of 14 counties in the state to reduce teen birthrates by 20 percent from 1998 to 2003.

Regardless, members of the committee think teen pregnancy is still a problem in Quay County and hope their efforts this month will help raise awareness among teens of the consequences of their choices.

Maria D. Thornton-Rodriguez is the chair of the committee. She also was a teen parent.

“I think parents need to be educated about teen pregnancy and how to talk to your kids about it,” she said.

Thornton-Rodriguez, whose son will be entering middle school next year, said she wants teens to know how having a baby will affect their lives.

“If I can tell teens and other parents what it’s like to be a teen mom and still be a mom and how that affected my life,” she said “If one teen hears my message, I think I’ve pretty much done everything I can.” she said.