Pregnancy Care Center volunteers T.J. Smith and James Moseley prepare for an upcoming presentation of the Relationships Under Construction curriculum in Marysville Schools. March is Teen Dating Violence and Prevention Month. The program, funded by United Way, is being taught to 8th and 9th graders during health class to help students evaluate their lifestyle choices and accomplish lifelong goals.
20 March 2013
Relationships. Emotions. Choices. Consequences. These are some of the topics discussed during 8th and 9th grade health classes in Marysville Schools. The Relationships Under Construction curriculum is being presented for the second straight year by trained instructors of the Pregnancy Care Center of Union County, thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded by United Way.
“It’s not just a sex education class, focusing on negative connotations of sex and sexually transmitted diseases,” said James Moseley, Youth Pastor at Living Hope Church and volunteer instructor. “We talk about the emotion and depression that often come from being sexually active at such a young age. We teach them about relationships: how to have a relationship, what to look for in good and bad relationships, how to break up when it is over without it being so devastating.”
The five-day course is a far cry from old-school sex education that merely included technical discussion about the physical aspects of sex. It’s designed to present facts about sex and encourage students to think through and evaluate their lifestyle choices. Marysville High School health teachers cited an increase in teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, at-risk behaviors such as “sexting,” unhealthy relationship behaviors, and students struggling to “break up” in a healthy way.
“Our intention in presenting the Relationships Under Construction curriculum is to help change and save lives,” said T.J. Smith, a Pregnancy Care Center Board Member and volunteer instructor. “We believe that there is a huge void in the information that young people receive about relationships. Most information they receive comes from the media and their peer groups. This information is starkly lacking when it comes to the consequences of engaging in risky sexual behaviors as well as the rewards of waiting.”
The presentations have been eye-opening for some students.
“I was sitting in health class today as you were talking and I was going through my mind and there were so many things that I couldn’t believe I let myself do,” wrote a student in a thank you note. “I’m throwing my life away due to stupid things. You have made me realize that I am better than all those things. Those things stop today. I just want to say thank you for changing my life.”
Pre and post surveys were given to assess the degree to which the course impacted students’ thinking about relationships and sexual behavior. There was a 131% increase in the response that “Remaining abstinent until marriage shows respect for yourself and your girlfriend/boyfriend.” There was a 100% increase in the response that “There are financial benefits to waiting until marriage to have sex.” There was a 92% increase in the response that disagreed to the response that “Condoms provide protection from the emotional consequences of sexual activity.”
“It teaches them the consequences of sex outside of marriage,” said Amelia Law, a volunteer instructor. “It presents the facts. It doesn’t say that you can’t do it. But it teaches them that they are responsible for their choices. A lot of the students have seen relationships crumble and fall apart around them. So it’s really energizing for them to hear that it can be done.”
“It shows you how to build a healthy relationship and how to build a healthy marriage that will last a lifetime,” said Smith, who shares his personal story during the talks. “My mother was married and divorced four times by the time I was in 9th grade. They can choose to be somebody different. You can tell it gives them hope that someone can practice abstinence and stand behind it.”
The Pregnancy Care Center hopes to expand programming to include Fairbanks and North Union Schools in the near future.