Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
Heard County continues to struggle with health issues that plague the rest of our nation, like sexually transmitted infections. Seeing that relationship issues are on the rise, the Heard County 4-H Club stepped in and offered Relationship Smarts in the middle grades where these problems tend to start forming. Relationship Smarts is a curriculum that is meant to affirm the importance of teen-relationship experiences while reducing teen-dating violence.
In Heard County, the teen pregnancy rate is 24.5 percent, which is slightly higher than the state average. The STD rate for teens aged 15 to 19 is 19.1 percent, the highest rate in 11 years. Single-parent families are also at an all-time high at 30.1 percent, the highest in 10 years, according to Kids Count Data.
During adolescence, teens let their friends influence their decisions regarding sexual activity, even when they do not fully understand the consequences associated with the act. Teenagers have sex as a way to appear cool and sophisticated, but in some cases the end result is an unplanned teen pregnancy. The Kaiser Family Foundation states that more than 29 percent of pregnant teens reported that they felt pressured to have sex, and 33 percent of pregnant teens stated that they felt that they were not ready for a sexual relationship, but proceeded anyway because they feared ridicule or rejection.
Many times teens do not have the knowledge needed to make informed and responsible decisions about whether or not to engage in sexual activity that can alter their life.
Heard County 4-H implemented the Relationship Smarts curriculum for sixth- through eighth-graders at Heard County Middle School. The program is designed to help teens learn how to make wise choices about relationships, dating, sexual activity, partners and more.
Six content lessons were delivered in the classroom on a monthly basis dealing with topics such as having healthy relationships with family and friends, being a good and sensitive listener, handling conflict in a positive way, having a healthy dating relationship, and expressing your feelings with your dating partner.
Classroom activities reinforced classroom lessons through role playing or games where participants lined up with the viewpoints they agreed with and by sharing personal testimonies.
A total of 236 youth participated in the Relationship Smarts curriculum. At the conclusion, each participant was given a survey. The following are the results:
- 85.1 percent of respondents reported that they were very likely or likely to use the skills learned from the program.
- 83.8 percent of participants felt that this program was either helpful or very helpful to them.
- 72 percent of respondents reported that they would refer this program to a friend.
- 80 percent of the respondents felt better about themselves compared to before the program, when asked “How do you feel about yourself as a person now?”
Below are a few sample comments that youth shared reflecting what they learned:
- “I feel that this program helped me how to act mature when handling a situation.”
- “What I enjoy most about the program is that I’ve learned how to handle toxic relationships with other people.”
- “I feel that I have a very good mindset about dating and dealing with a relationship.”
- “This program has helped me learn how to resolve a relationship.”