Education and earning potential both suffer when teens have babies—and one North Texas nonprofit is challenging students to think about how their life would change with a child to care for-- by hosting a film competition.
Picking music to score a short film can be tricky. Editors need to strike the right tone without distracting from the message, which in this case, is teen pregnancy, from a students’ perspective.
Zooming In On Teen Pregnancy
Evelyn Morales is a senior at Lincoln High School in Dallas. She and her two teammates are working on a film that compares how unwed mothers were viewed more than a century ago with how teen moms are seen today. She worries that too many high schoolers jump into sexual relationships—and then want out when it’s already too late.
“All of the sudden they want to be teens again," she says. "So we want to show that being grown is not the greatest thing ever that we should actually wait until we’re married because if not, then we’re just making ourselves mature faster when we’re not even ready.”
Morales isn’t a mother herself but watched her cousin drop out of college after an unplanned pregnancy. Many of her classmates have children too.
“It was kind of tough for them, I know they love their babies but some of them say they should have waited, they should have waited," she says.
Imagining How A Teen Mom Feels
In another classroom, Melody Howard, who also isn't a mom, works with three other students on a film that gets inside the head of a teen mom before, during and after her pregnancy.
“You just see life differently because not only do you have to live for yourself, you have to live for a child now," she says.
And, teen moms have to provide for their children, which isn't always easy.
“As you’re young, you really don’t have a stable job, or you’re not into your career like you want to be, so you’re not going to have the money," she says.
A Difficult Road
Howard’s right, caring for a baby as a teenager isn’t a smooth road. About half of teen moms get a high school diploma. Only one or two out of a hundred teen moms will graduate college by age 30. Most need public assistance to make ends meet.
Terry Greenberg is the CEO of NTARUPT, The North Texas Allliance To Reduce Unintended Pregnancy In Teens. Focused on educating and teens about prevention, NTARUPT is also behind the short film contest. Here's how to enter.
“We just wanted people in the community to understand what kids are going through," says Greenberg. "Their pressures and influences.”
Greenberg also hopes the contest will get teens talking and thinking about pregnancy—before they face it themselves. The entered films will be screened on Feb. 19 at the Angelika Theater in Dallas.
“In some neighborhoods, kids don’t have to think, it’s just assumed that they are not going to have a baby before they finish college. But in other neighborhoods it’s so normalized, and we want to get them thinking. Think about your future. Put these decisions in the context of your whole life," she says.
A Different Future
Something that’s especially important at Lincoln High School, where the teen birth rate in the surrounding zipcode is about five times the national average.
Student Melody Howard, for one, doesn’t see pregnancy in her immediate—or even long-term future.
“Ten years from now I see my life still in the Air Force, traveling the world and just having fun. Not married no kids," she says.
She’ll save that for a day much further down the road.