'Project Youth' provides lessons on teen pregnancy, more

March 8, 2014 (CHICAGO)

The conversations can be pretty frank and organizers say they have to be if they're going to be effective. These teen girls are part of Project Youth, a pregnancy prevention program that includes comprehensive sex education, as well as lessons about self-esteem, body image and healthy relationships.

"In the Mexican-American community, teen pregnancy is amongst the highest and so we feel it is very important to provide medically accurate health sex education to all of our teens," said Maria Pesqueira, President/CEO, Mujeres Latinas en Accion.

Leaders at Mujeres Latinas en Accion say teen pregnancy is just one of many issues they have to tackle with youth, so they require all students to participate in group art therapy or one-on-one counseling.

"Art therapy helped me a lot," said 13-year-old Julissa Ocampo. "They gave me therapy like one-on-one therapy so they could discuss everything like all my problems. That's how they helped me with all the activities we do, with self-esteem."

"A lot of these kids have seen domestic abuse at home, have seen gang violence," said Youth Services Director Maritza Rocha. "A lot of the kids come in just like their parents, abused or battered and really no sense of hope."

The group looks out for boys, too. Israel Garcia is part of the Peace Program. It keeps kids off the streets, offers homework help and teaches conflict resolution.

"This program is the best for me to become a better person," he said.

Project Youth also offers sports activities and leadership development. In two weeks, Mujeres Latinas en Accion will holds its annual fundraiser.

For more information: http://www.mujereslatinasenaccion.org/Home/programs/project-youth

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