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Prevention Services: A Moving Target

If you ask Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention, to describe what they do, the first thing she’ll tell you is, “It’s a moving target.” This is why she and her team use the target visual (right) to help describe what they do.

Trisha and Prevention Assistant, Kelli Hansen, as Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Specialists, reach the vast majority of students with their Sexual Risk Avoidance message in area middle and high schools. Certified in the REAL ESSENTIALS curriculum, they are actively teaching SRA for five to ten days in each school, ranging from fourth grade through high school seniors. One of the ten days in the classroom includes a visit from the Veracity Team, a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative led by Veracity Coordinator, Maureen Nolan. Maureen recruits and trains these high school and college volunteers, equipping them to talk about what it’s like to navigate life in high school and answer questions. All of this classroom work is made possible by Prevention Coordinator, Ashley Denker, who prepares materials, collects and inputs data, maintains records and keeps the team up-to-date with medical and culture research.

In addition to mentoring the students involved in Veracity, the Prevention team partners with area churches. Very often, the team will travel to area locations on Wednesday or Sunday evenings, continuing the sexual integrity message with teens of faith attending youth groups, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and other faith gatherings, to further share God’s plan for intimacy within marriage.

Prevention Services also works with at-risk populations. They are regularly at CD+, an initiative of ASAC, where teenagers receive treatment for substance abuse. They are leading a middle school girls’ Bible study at Four Oaks, and this past summer, they met daily with displaced kids at the DHS Foundation 2 Youth Shelter. Recently, they began a Relationship class for mentally and physically disabled consumers at ARC in Cedar Rapids.

The most direct intervention is their one-on-one work with students, referred through a number of sources. Recent referrals include a Bridgehaven client who at 13, received positive pregnancy test results; a crisis/abusive situation referred by the Dropout Prevention Specialist at a local alternative high school; and a conversation after an FCA speaking engagement. These types of meetings can be a one-time event or develop into an ongoing mentoring relationship.

Profiles: One-On-One

13-year-old Marie* came into the center for a pregnancy test in June, which was positive. Because of Marie’s age, Kelli was asked to sit in on the test, along with the Client Advocate in order to offer one-on-one prenatal classes for Marie. Marie came into the Center with her mom, who shared with Kelli that Marie struggles with mental health issues, violence, and anger. Kelli met with Marie and her mom on one occasion a couple of weeks after her pregnancy test. During that meeting, Kelli learned the father of Marie’s baby is also 13, but Marie disclosed she’d been sexually active with another boy more recently. Kelli discussed the holistic benefits of sexual risk avoidance with both Marie and her mom, and taught the first of ten prenatal classes. Marie and her mom dropped the class a few weeks later in order to seek further mental health care for Marie.The Dropout Prevention Specialist from a local high school contacted Trisha about a student who was just out of a difficult “relationship” and interested in making positive changes. At 15, Soujorn* had been both physically abused and physically abusive in a lesbian relationship with an older girl. She is estranged from her dad, and has a turbulent relationship with mother and stepfather. She is graduating early and plans to move out. Trisha was able to meet with Sojourn each week for about seven weeks on the high school campus. Topics of discussion led them to many faith conversations, perspectives on sexual risk and healthy choices, future orientation and goals, and issues of self-esteem. Soujourn expressed her desire to continue meeting over the summer, however, shortly after graduation, her phone was disconnected, and mail went unanswered. Trisha recently ran into Soujorn at Walmart and they have plans to reconnect.15-year old Ally* reached out to Kelli after hearing her testimony at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle at a local high school in May. She wanted to talk more about Jesus. Kelli had a one-time appointment with Ally during lunch at her high school. Ally shared about her struggle with sexting, craving attention from boys, lying, etc. She said she had a secret email account and lied to her parents frequently. Because of God’s provision in the situation, Ally and Kelli met in a private room in the front office of the school and were able to read Scripture together and pray before Ally had to go back to class.

* To protect our clients, names are not actual; ages and stories are.