The Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program has enjoyed over ten years of success and counting. While we never equate our program as a quick-fix to the issue of adolescent pregnancy, we do like to measure our success. In addition to the following article, the most up-to-date articles can be viewed on the Children’s Aid Society web site.
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – With all the energy and passion of an urban evangelist, Dr. Michael Carrera spent a November day touring and talking to the people of this southern city about his lifelong work with adolescents.
A good dose of iced tea and fried chicken masked neither his New York accent nor deterred his enthusiasm, as Carrera tirelessly spoke to local groups about his soon-to-be implemented, community-based program for youth.
His model is a holistic approach aimed ultimately at curbing teen pregnancy by producing positive attitudes among a vulnerable population.
The five-year project, which will follow young people from sixth grade through high school graduation, kicks off this summer. It’s made possible by a $1.2 million, four-year Knight Foundation grant awarded last September to Georgia College & State University (GC&SU;).
After months of planning, project leaders will begin hiring staff soon. They’ll then choose about 30 sixth-grade students from public middle schools in Milledgeville.
One day a student may have art lessons; another day could include a trip to the bowling alley and another, a visit to the dentist. They will do entrepreneurial work, open a bank account and get tutored in certain school courses.
The idea that led to the Carrera model initially evolved from a retreat in the fall of 2001 when Knight’s Milledgeville Community Advisory Committee met with residents to talk about youth development. They asked themselves: “What could one community do with Knight’s meaningful yet limited investment over time that would really make a measurable difference?”
In 2002 the nine-member advisory committee, working with Community Partners Program Officer Susan Patterson, identified GC&SU; as the organization to lead the project. Then last winter, 50 people helped put in place the considerable logistics to run the Carrera program in Milledgeville.
More than 500 residents from all walks of life have attended meetings to learn about it. “Already you’ve got an enormous gift from Knight Foundation that’s going to put you on the right track for a number of years to run a great program,” Carrera told 20 members of the project’s advisory team at a dinner meeting.
The year-round program follows the students through their high school career via seven components including a job club to provide participants with work experience and bank accounts; educational assistance; family life and sex education; expression through the arts; individual sports; comprehensive dental and medical care; and counseling/mental health services. Statistically, the Carrera program works by producing more high school graduates and college admissions among comparable groups and fewer unwanted pregnancies.
“This program is the long fix, not the quick fix, very contrary to the American way,” Carrera later told a public gathering. “The American way is the microwave way … I know the qualities we need … include patient endurance. I’ve learned by being a father and running these programs that the key to success is to outlast them.”
Carrera directs the Adolescent Sexuality and Pregnancy Prevention Programs for the Children’s Aid Society in New York City. He is an emeritus teacher at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and teaches community medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. He began in 1959 at a junior high school in the Bronx. In 1970, he was hired to direct a pregnancy prevention program for the New York Children’s Aid Society. He started designing his first holistic adolescent pregnancy prevention model in 1984 and has since developed similar programs in 50 states, Carrera told his middle Georgia audience. The Milledgeville model is the first in Georgia.
While in Milledgeville Carrera visited with Mayor Floyd Griffin, with Recreation Department staffers, with the school superintendent and with bank officials. He liked what he saw.
“I hesitate in saying this, but this is going to be a special place because of the due diligence that’s been done and the resources that are being made available, which are far greater than any place including New York,” Carrera said.
But when young people believe good things are possible in their lives, they will reduce the risks, he added. “We don’t prevent teen pregnancy. They do. We don’t prevent HIV infection. They do. We create an environment where they believe they are on the right pathway for good things to happen.”
By Cheryl Fincher for News@Knight