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Health Department Announces Teen Outreach Program in Mason City Schools

(Mason City) – The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health is excited to announce their partnership with Mason City High School, Mason City Alternative School, AEA Learning Center and Francis Lauer Youth Services. Each school will be utilizing the Wyman Teen Outreach Program (TOP).  TOP is a nationally replicated youth development approach aimed at preventing primary teen pregnancy and helping young people make consistent progress in school.

Students in the program learn about exploring their personal values, romantic relationships, sexual education and effective communication skills. The curriculum is approved by the Iowa Board of Education and is driven by the needs and interests of the students. It also helps participants chart their own course by giving them tools to navigate the difficult and sometimes threatening journey from adolescence to young adulthood.

“Students receive the necessary skills to be empowered to deal with real life situations now and later on,” said Addie Rasmusson, Community Health Consultant, Iowa Department of Public Health.  Funding of the program is through the Personal Responsibility Education Program Grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Service learning is another aspect to the TOPS program. Students were asked to identify needs in their community and come up with solutions to meet these needs as well as a plan to logistically carry out the plan. By identifying the community need, working together as volunteers and becoming part of the solution, students are able to see the concrete benefits of their work. This not only prepares them for their future transition from school to work, but it also gives them a sense of empowerment and pride in their accomplishments and their community. “This program focuses on students assets,” said Shelley Horak, Community Health Consultant, Iowa Department of Public Health. “It’s designed to empower students through the service learning portion of the program, so we as adults can look at teens as the experts, part of the solution, rather than the problem.”

The program started in the schools on March 5, 2012. Class size ranges from six to 30 students. The program is designed so that facilitators remain neutral during discussions on controversial topics so that participants are free to express a variety of opinions and values. “One of the goals of the program is for students to develop a trusting relationship with a knowledgeable adult so students can feel comfortable getting the information they need in an accurate manner,” said Betty Krones, Disease Prevention Specialist, Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health.

This year is a pilot program and the Health Department plans on facilitating this program again next school year. For more information about the program, please contact Betty Krones at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health at (641) 421-9320.

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