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Bellaire Schools encourage potential teen parents to “think it over”

Staff members pose with Schools in Belmont County are giving new meaning to the phrase “hands-on learning” to teach students about pregnancy prevention.  

The Teen Awareness Program in the Bellaire Local School District provides students with “Baby Think it Over” dolls, life-like dolls students care for as their own children. The program is targeted toward students in 7th-12th grades and offers educational lectures as well as a glimpse of parental responsibilities.  

For one weekend students are required to perform the functions of a parent, such as burping, feeding, diaper changing and rocking the dolls.  Like real infants, these dolls cry, wake up in the middle of the night and require constant attention. Participants experience the demands of having a child and how that responsibility can change their lives. When students return the doll, teachers are able to tell if the child has been properly cared for or not.

This year the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and its grant partners provided the Teen Awareness Program with a grant which will allow them to purchase 10 new “Baby Think it Over” dolls.

“It is just amazing how tending a baby for one weekend impacts teens.  Many of them say that having a child is not as glamorous as they thought nor is it anything they want to experience on a regular basis,” said Janet Groome, program director. “Parents often comment on how useful they feel this program has been to their children.”

According to Belmont County Student Services, 300 students participated in the program during the 2005 – 2006 school year. Since implementing the program, there have been noticeable drops in teen pregnancy among the students, Groome said.

The school is one of 17 grantees receiving a total of $70,000 in funding awarded to area nonprofits through the Access to Education mini-grants program, a partnership between the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville (OHFN), the Ohio Children’s Foundation (OCF) and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO).

The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is the managing partner for the mini-grants initiative and is a 501(c)(3) public charity and regional community foundation.
FAO’s mission is to enrich the current and future quality of life in the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio by fostering access to opportunity.  
“We have had a lot of success with this program in the past and we are excited to continue this in the future,” Groome said. “The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio has helped to ensure that we continue to enrich the quality of life in Appalachia.”

2007 is the third year for the regional partnership and mini-grants program. Past distributions have focused on improving quality of life and access to opportunity in Appalachian Ohio. Since the program’s inception in 2004, more than $213,000 has been awarded to regional non-profits. Projects were recommended for funding by the FAO Grants and Program Advisory Committee, which was comprised of 11 leaders from the region. Many grantees also are able to use the mini-grant dollars to leverage more funding for their programs.

For more information on the Teen Awareness Program, contact Janet Groome at 740-676-4815.