LIMA — The Heartbeat of Lima has been pushing pregnancy prevention curriculum for more than a decade, touching more than 20,000 Allen County students since 2002.
Patti Kennedy, Heartbeat of Lima executive director, said representatives have come into schools for one-week increments from sixth to 12th grades. Each year’s curriculum usually builds on the last. They cover everything from abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, healthy relationships and self-esteem. They partner with Ohio Adolescent Health Centers.
“We look at the physical, psychological, emotional, social side effects of how it can affect them,” Kennedy said. “We do promote abstinence. Abstinence is the only way that someone is going to eliminate the risk of sexually tranmitted diseases. ... We are not there to judge them. We are there to provide information for them.”
Heartbeat of Lima had financial woes in 2010, but kept the program afloat with dedicated volunteers continuing to go into Allen County schools. The YWCA of Lima had closed that year, halting their in-school teen pregnancy prevention programming. The YWCA of Northwest Ohio is going to be introducing a comprehensive teen pregnancy curriculum into Allen County schools this fall, based from curriculum from Toledo-area schools.
In addition to the in-school programming, Heartbeat of Lima hosts a program called Bridges for teen mothers. It provides resources for young mothers at their center. Right now, Kennedy said there are roughly 280 mothers actively involved with the Bridges program. The program is designed for teens to use until their child is 3 years old. The program is designed so that these young women don’t feel helpless.
“So many girls are in a situation where they’re feeling down, and it just cycles,” Kennedy said. “It pulls them down further.”