DeAnn Arroyo, Project Associate
Holly Babb-Preusser, Associate Director
Abstinence Until Marriage and Project Pledge, Pima Prevention Partnership, Tucson, AZ

“Initially it was difficult for school districts to see that this was not a religious movement, but one centered around healthy relationships for teens. Yet strictly by word of mouth, we have steadily grown from serving 1,100 students to 5,500 with Choosing the Best WAY, PATH, and LIFE. When we started five years ago, Arizona ranked second in teen pregnancy. Now it is 4th with a 9% drop in teen pregnancy for the first time ever. Since abstinence is new to the picture, we take the credit for that drop!

“Abstinence education is so needed. You see the change in teens when you start to empower them—that keeps us pumped. Students welcome the fact that someone is giving them permission not to have sex, and their friends are on board with them. We have 25 high school kids trained as peer mentors, with kids signing up after just 10 sessions. They are excited to be able to say, ‘This group of people believe what I do and we’re strong together.’”

PIMA started its abstinence program with Title V funding, and a SPRANS grant has enabled the organization to expand into more schools, to develop peer mentoring groups and the parent component, and to create a website.

“The teachers get together and those involved in the program tell other teachers and counselors, and they are calling us,” says DeAnn Arroyo. “Everyone has become a community in support of abstinence in the school district.”

“One teacher, who taught four classes a day, used to see kids who were abstinent lowering themselves in their chairs when she brought up the topic,” adds Holly. “In the past two years she has seen the opposite effect—kids are proud and strong in what they believe.”

“We use all three Choosing the Best curricula with high school students, 8th graders, and 7th and 6th graders,” Holly continues. “WAY, PATH, and LIFE are very powerful, and the videos are used in every class. The kids do like to do a lot of activity. You need to match the curriculum to each school and group of students. [We prefer Choosing the Best because] when you have curricula that are not updated, you can’t present the information, because it won’t be taken seriously.”

“Parents are so happy to see their students are learning methods,” says DeAnn. “We’re assisting parents in giving them good techniques and information.”

“People become tuned in to the fact that there are some very real dangers,” Holly observes. “You have a student doing well and making good grades, then he drops out or there is a pregnancy. It is so profound to them that there is something they can do [to prevent this].”