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After-school program targets teen pregnancy

NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls Housing Authority is offering a new after-school program aimed at reducing instances of teen pregnancy.

The program, called Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adolescence, or STYA, targets young people between ages 9 and 12.

Kids in this age group sometimes “fall between the cracks” during what can be a difficult time in their lives, said Annie Fields-Chapman, general manager of the authority’s Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building.

The program will give participants information to help them make healthy decisions for their personal lives, Fields-Chapman said.

“We want them to come into their own in a positive way,” she said.

One of the main themes of the program will be to get young people thinking about setting goals for their lives and then not letting those goals get derailed by pregnancy, said Samika V. Sullivan, program coordinator for the Housing Authority.

Dealing with this issue starting with high school students is sometimes a little too late, Sullivan said.

Program administrators plan to get participants “to think about what you want to do with your future and how you’re going to do that and how can you start right now planning your adulthood,” Sullivan said.

The program is funded by a five-year grant from the state Department of Health worth upward of $500,000. The Housing Authority was one of 17 agencies in the state to receive funding for this type of program.

The program has a very strong academic component, as participants will receive help with homework. All students also will get a meal or snack daily.

The program is based on the Minneapolis-based Search Institute’s 40 developmental assets for adolescents, which is a list of things young people need to be healthy, strong and successful, Sullivan said.

Topics will range widely and include issues such as peer pressure, bullying, relationships and how to communicate with parents.

The program kicked off March 3 and runs from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Fridays will include guest speakers and field trips.

It has a capacity for 75 participants, or 25 per site, a limit the program has already come close to reaching, Sullivan said.

Funds have been spent to hire a facilitator for each site.

For more information, contact Housing Authority officials at the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building at 285-5374; the Packard Court Community Center at 278-0228; and at the Beloved Community, the former Center Court, at 285-8050.

Information also is available through the Housing Authority’s Facebook page,