By Ryn Gargulinski: Quay County Sun
Tucumcari knows all about teen pregnancy, according to statistics from the Maternal Child and Community Health Council (MCCH).
But while Quay County once had one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the nation, said Alida Brown, coordinator for MCCH, that is changing.
Quay County’s teen pregnancy rate dropped 53 percent from 1998 to 2003, Brown said.
In 1998, 28 of the 395 teen girls in Quay County gave birth; by 2003, that number was down to 13 girls out of 394, according to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health.
“This drop is in teens aged 15 to age 19 years, the age group where the highest births usually take place,” Brown said.
The reason for the decline? Brown said one reason is a teen pregnancy committee initiated by MCCH through Tucumcari High School.
The committee is dedicated to making teens more aware of what a pregnancy may mean for them — and ways to prevent it, Brown said. The committee includes two teachers, MCCH workers and three students.
Danny Benavidez, 18, of Tucumcari, found the committee after his son Isiah was born eight months ago. While the group helps young parents, its primary mission is to prevent teen pregnancies.
“We would just come up with ideas of how to prevent it,” Benavidez said of a typical committee meeting.
One idea was to try and get the bowling alley to open again so youths would have something to do.
“There wasn’t really anything for kids to do in town,” Benavidez said. “Most kids going to school would drink and party and go out and have sex with just anyone. They don’t really realize what they are actually doing, what the outcome could be.”
The committee has also produced radio ads aimed at making teens realize the sacrifices young must parents must make.
Benavidez said he helps out as much as he can with Isiah — changing diapers, feeding, buying supplies that include baby wipes.
“We learned in the committee that 80 percent of the new fathers leave the mothers, and 20 percent of the mothers leave the fathers,” he said. Benavidez said he is still in a relationship with his girlfriend, Isiah’s mother, and they plan to get married in the future.
As for the rest of the teens in Quay County, Brown said MCCH is determined to continue with its efforts at providing information.
Brown said MCCH works in conjunction with city schools and other aspects of the community, including churches.
“This is not just an issue of teen pregnancy — it’s an issue of overall wellness,” Brown said, “and it takes a whole community working together to promote it.”