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Tying pregnancy prevention to college completion

​Sean Brumfield, an English instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College (CTC) in Georgia, was uncertain whether he would get a response for his request to faculty members who taught general courses to voluntarily infuse unplanned pregnancy prevention into their curriculum.  
Brumfield considers unplanned pregnancy a significant hurdle in retaining CTC students and for the residents in the surrounding community, which has high rates of poverty and unemployment.  He was especially disturbed by a colleague’s story about a student who dropped out after becoming pregnant because she felt she could not talk to an instructor about her situation. 
But Brumfield didn’t know whether his colleagues would feel the same. To encourage faculty members to adhere to his request, he offered a small incentive—a trip to the Community College National Center for Community Engagement conference (which was held this May) or a course release. It worked. He enlisted teachers of introductory classes in sociology, literature and public speaking, as well as the dean of students, who teaches the Introduction to College course.  With such a range and reach of classes, Brumfield anticipates reaching a wide array of CTC students.
Brumfeld was among representative from three community colleges who presented at the Community College National Center for Community Engagement conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. The colleges are part of a national grant project, Make It Personal: College Completion (MIPCC), which seeks to develop curriculum-based and service learning strategies for reducing unplanned pregnancy.
MIPCC is a one-year pilot program funded by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and managed by the American Association of Community Colleges.
In the sociology course, students will reflect on marriage, family and socialization. In the literature course, students will read works related to teen and unplanned pregnancy and research related topics. And in an Introduction to College class, students will learn about unplanned pregnancy as part of the wellness curriculum. Both the sociology and literature class will have a service learning component. 
Hennepin Technical College (HTC) in Minnesota is also integrating pregnancy awareness into college courses. Students enrolled in both online and on-campus developmental psychology courses take a three-generation view of the biological, psychological and sociological impacts of unplanned pregnancy by exploring the perspectives of the child, the young parents and the grandparents, according to Tawnda Bickford, HTC’s MIPCC project director and psychology instructor.
The college uses a Web-based “life planning tool” for the project ,, as well as an instant electronic poll to collect information anonymously from students during class on the topic.
The students then showcase their class projects at community organizations and provide access to online resources provided by the National Campaign’s online resources.  
Duane Oakes and Liz Meyer from the Center for Service Learning at Mesa Community College in Arizona have involved student leaders from the start in planning Project HOPE (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Education). They have engaged faculty by offering mini-grants to develop projects and curriculum in core courses. The center supports them through training, mentoring, monthly meetings and National Campaign materials. 
Like CTS and HTC, MCC incorporated pregnancy prevention material in some course curricula. An early education class instructor had student teams research topics such as parenting and healthy relationships and create presentations for peers or community organizations that were filmed and posted on YouTube. This year, a computer information systems class will create an educational game called “Cyber Baby” by giving students a virtual experience of parenting responsibilities.
What’s worked
MIPCC grantees are halfway through the one-year grant period. In a roundtable discussion after the conference session, they discussed key elements of the project, including:
The right “frame” matters. Retention is the hook to get people to look at unplanned pregnancy as an area community colleges should address.  For students, it is a matter of tying the issue to their goals. It is important to avoid being seen as pushing any one approach to pregnancy prevention.  Make sure to communicate that no one is against having children—it’s just that the time may not be right. 
The right support matters. Such efforts need backing from top-level college administrators and other organizations. AACC’s effort to address the issue has brought it national attention and encouraged colleges to tackle the matter.
Service learning is a powerful framework. A service learning component can provide opportunities to disseminate information on campus as well as to the community at large.
The issue of unplanned pregnancy can fit into most courses. As the examples have shown, pregnancy prevention content can be effectively integrated into college courses.
There are ways to get faculty involved. Invite them into discussion about the issue, especially concerning sources of resistance. Share information and resources available from the National Campaign ( colleges).  An open house is one approach.
Students and faculty like being part of a shared effort. There is an appeal to working with others on something that serves the college community. Both students and faculty can feel isolated because so many of them are not on campus full-time. 
By spring 2011, AACC and the National Campaign will post online the model curricula, resources and materials that the three colleges developed as their contribution to the completion agenda.
Jacksteit is a project manager and associate at the Public Conversations Project, which supports the work of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.