Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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Collaboration Results in $4.8 Million Grant to Fund Teen Sexual Health Program

Ellen Gilbert

“I think we deserve it!” exclaimed HiTOPS Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian of the recent $4.8 million federal grant awarded to the Princeton Center for Leadership Training (PCLT).

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be used to replicate and evaluate a teen sexual health peer education program, known as Teen Prevention Education Program (Teen PEP) in 16 high schools in rural North Carolina communities with high teen birth rates. Teen PEP is a school-based program that utilizes peer education to increase responsible decision-making by students around issues of sexual health.

“The PCLT and HiTOPS have been collaborating for years on this program and the grant is a testament to our hard work to evaluate, revise, and be able to replicate this program in 50-plus schools in N.J. and now moving it to North Carolina,” observed Ms. Casparian.

“We are both honored and thrilled to receive this prestigious award that will enable us to reach thousands more young people with a medically accurate sexual health education and leadership development program,” said PCLT President and CEO Daniel F. Oscar. “The success of Teen PEP as a statewide model in New Jersey offers a solid foundation for wide-scale replication of the program in rural communities in North Carolina.”

The fact that there is already a PCLT presence in North Carolina was an important consideration in developing the 100-plus page grant, which was one of 94 that got funded among the thousand-plus applications from across the U.S. The numbers get more impressive when you learn that the application was only one of 19 to be funded in its particular category, practices that are “innovative and new.”

“Every word mattered,” said Ms. Casparian. “They were impressed because we’re going to a state with one of the highest teen birth rates,” added Mr. Oscar. The award will make it possible to hire new staff and to support the program and infrastructure in North Carolina, he said.

“This is a credit to N.J. as an innovator,” added Mr. Oscar. “The state has been funding and supporting us for 15 years.”

The $155 million put aside for teen pregnancy prevention by the Federal Government is the result of the Obama administration’s creation of a new department to provide comprehensive sex education, rather than abstinence-only programs.

Make no mistake, note both Ms. Casparian and Mr. Oscar, this influx of money, however formidable, does not change the ongoing local financial picture for either agency. PCLT continues to need support for its mission to “develop, disseminate, and promote peer leadership, advisory, and other evidence based K through 12 solutions that enable and inspire educators to more full engage students in learning.” And HiTOPS programs that “promote adolescent health and well-being” and help teens to “clarify their values and make responsible decisions regarding their health and actions,” continue to rely on community support.

“In an age when the needs of our young people are pressing and resources for their education and assistance are shrinking, this award for Teen PEP programming is welcome news!” said Princeton Superintendent of Schools Judith Wilson. “Teen PEP has been an important part of students’ education in the Princeton Regional Schools. Teens become leaders who have solid information, voice and power in order for them and their peers to make sound, healthy decisions. We are so very fortunate to have national leaders, HiTops and PCLT, in our backyard and serving our community so very well.”

“We bring our absolute, most prized expertise to the table,” observed Ms. Casparian. “Together, we’re pretty awesome.”

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