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Teen Outreach Program looks to new year of fun and learning
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Teen Outreach Program looks to new year of fun and learning

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The Missouri Teen Pregnancy Prevention program (MOTPP), offered by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), seeks to reduce teenage pregnancy, encourage healthy relationships, and empower youth across the state, including the Park Hills, Bismarck and Leadwood communities.

Several area teens participated in the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) curriculum for the 2019-2020 school year. Program facilitators are now looking forward to the coming school year.

The program prepares middle and high school students for developing healthy relationships, building self-esteem and self-awareness, and attaining a sense of purpose and empowerment through peer learning, facilitated lesson plans, and collective service to the community.

“This is our fifth year with the Teen Outreach Program,” said Program Coordinator Linda Ragsdale. “We started at Central Middle School in 2016. The program has grown to include Central High School, Bismarck and West County schools.

“The program is ideal for students who are at-risk for truancy, teen pregnancy and drop-out. The club is open to anyone though.”

Through classes on problem-solving, goal-setting and healthy relationships, Ragsdale said TOP has lowered the likelihood of teen pregnancy, risky sexual behaviors, course failure and rates of truancy in school.

While MOTPP is administered by DHSS, it is local schools, health departments, and non-profits that implement the program.

A social worker, counselor, or teacher from one of the participating school districts will recommend a student to the program if they feel the student would benefit from the curriculum and activities.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the St. Francois County Health Center served 40 students with TOP curriculum and activities. These students were a part of four different clubs, each led by program facilitators from the community.

Ragsdale explained that community service learning is a major focus of TOP. "Service learning" is a term educators use to describe students' participation in community events, projects or activities that teach them myriad lessons outside classroom studies.

The students are required to fulfill 20 hours of community service learning, and these hours are usually done as a group with a facilitator.

Over the course of the 20 hours of learning, students participate in community-based activities such as making blankets for the homeless shelter, road cleanup in front of the school, helping with the Special Olympics, providing germ patrol in schools, providing an egg hunt for the senior center, animal shelter projects and making Thanksgiving desserts for families.

Combined, the clubs have volunteered 74 hours of service to the community.

If anyone knows of a teen who would benefit by participating in the 2020-21 TOP program, or if anyone has a community project for future participants, they can contact Linda Ragsdale at linda.ragsdale@sfchealth.org.

Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com

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