Recently NBC Latino recognized Estelle Raboni as one of its top 20 innovators for her work on teen pregnancy prevention. Ms. Raboni, director of the "Changing the Odds" Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program offered through the Morris Heights Health Center in Bronx, NY, helps teens connect the dots between avoiding early pregnancy and being able to achieve a "better, middle class life." The "Changing the Odds" program is based on the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), an evidenced-based program that is used by community-based organizations, schools, and others interested in empowering teens to build and lead successful lives. This vision includes helping students stay on a path to completing their educational goals and achieving economic well-being.
Raboni's efforts were also noted in Teen Pregnancy and High School Dropout: What Communities Can Do to Address These Issues, a report we published earlier this year in collaboration with America's Promise Alliance. With programs operating in three middle and nine high schools in the Bronx area of New York City Public Schools, Raboni's program has been shown to both decrease teen pregnancy and improve educational outcomes. The report also highlights other innovative programs and approaches in other communities across the country.
One in four U.S. public school students drop out of high school before graduation and nearly one-third (30%) of teen girls who have dropped out of high school cite early pregnancy or parenthood as a key reason. The rate is even higher for African American girls (38%) and Latinas (36%). Given today's job market, it is more important than ever for teens to finish high school and attain post-secondary education when possible. Yet, overall, only about half (51 percent) of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22 compared to 89 percent of women who didn't have a teen birth. Less than two percent of teen mothers (those who have a baby before age 18) finish college by age 30.
Clearly these dual issues--teen pregnancy and school dropout--are closely linked. And clearly there is an urgent need for collaboration between school leaders who are striving to improve graduation rates and community leaders and state and local agencies focused on reducing teen pregnancy. Leaders like Raboni, who work in the school districts with teachers, students, and parents, are making a difference. We congratulate Estelle Raboni and urge others to consider ways they too can help make progress on these important issues.