Durant Mayor’s Youth Council receives Spark Youth Grant from Teen Health Mississippi

Jackson, MS—Young people in Mississippi are being empowered with the education, the skills, and now the funds to improve the health of their peers and affect the greater community.  Teen Health Mississippi (THMS), a state-wide, youth-focused organization addressing the sexual and mental health of teens and young adults across the state has introduced a mini-grant program for youth starting in 2019.  

The inaugural Spark Youth Grant has been developed through a partnership with Advocates for Youth.  The purpose of the award is to help an individual or group develop an idea that addresses unique challenges that impact the youth in their communities.  Selected awardees will have three months to complete their projects, and they will receive technical assistance from Teen Health Mississippi throughout the planning and implementation of their idea.  

This project furthers THMS’ mission to equip teens with the knowledge and skills so they may grow into health adults and move Mississippi forward. The award recognizes an individual or a youth group for their demonstration of enthusiasm, initiative, and responsibility.  The first $500 mini grant has been awarded to the Durant Mayor’s Youth Council.

“I feel grateful and appreciative to have the honor of being awarded the Spark Youth Grant for the year 2019,” shares Shandrea Whitt, graduating senior at Holmes County Central High School. “This grant will not only help the Mayor’s Youth Council achieve our goal to effectively educate our peers, but also gives us the opportunity to bring something new and innovative to the community.”

The Durant MYC will host a youth-led weekend program called “ Supporting the Youth of Our Future.” The Durant MYC will use a combination of peer-to-peer education and guest speakers to address teen health, bullying, peer pressure, decision-making, violence, and education.  In planning the program, the Durant MYC has been deliberate to incorporate interactive ways to involve the participants, provide information, and have fun in the process.  

Durant is one of several small cities in Holmes County.  According to County Health Rankings, Holmes County had the worst health outcomes of all the counties in Mississippi in 2018.  Factors including smoking, obesity, mental health, sexually transmitted infections, and high school graduation are all considered to compile the rankings across the nation.  The project coordinator for the Durant Mayor’s Youth Council, Cardell Wright, noted, “Not too often are we, in small communities, afforded the opportunities to effect change in our area of influence due to a lack of funding and support.  We are thankful to receive this Spark Youth Grant.”

In their application, the Durant MYC stated, “We believe it is time for us to do something instead of sitting back and letting things happen when they can be prevented.”  You can expect change in Durant as these young people become leaders over the next decade.

Teen Health Mississippi will accept another round of applications for a second Spark Youth Grant on July 1, 2019.  Please visit www.teenhealthms.org for more information.

Teen Health Mississippi is a nonpartisan nonprofit that envisions a Mississippi built on a foundation of healthy communities in which all teens have access to high-quality sex education and youth-friendly healthcare services. All of Teen Health Mississippi’s work is in partnership with youth and falls within three primary domains: policy and advocacy, training and capacity building, and programs and initiatives.

Teens are Major Partners with Teen Health Mississippi in Social Media Driven Health Effort

         Meet Team ME.  (from left) Dr. Angie, Adrian, Jay, Jazzy, and Maria.  Not pictured is “Big Bro” who appears occasionally via cell phone while enrolled at JSU.

 

Jackson, MS—Mississippi teens are a major partner with Teen Health Mississippi in a social media awareness campaign that connects Mississippi youth to high-quality and youth-friendly mental and sexual-reproductive health resources.  Teen Health Mississippi, in partnership with Power to Decide, recently launched Project Mind Elevation.  Project ME. has introduced six youthful, animated personas, vetted and approved by teens state-wide, who are “interacting” on popular social media channels.  As the ME. teens experience the same struggles as their real-life friends, they will recommend and provide information about resources and services available to youth across the state.   The lives of the ME. teens can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat under the username “MS.TeamMe”.

“For far too long, sexual health and mental health have been taboo topics in the state of Mississippi. We want to change that by providing a youth-friendly platform for youth to stay connected and to get factual information,” says Dr. Hope L. Crenshaw, Executive Director for Teen Health Mississippi.

Research shows that those who experience mental health concerns are less likely to practice sexual safety, placing youth at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.  Though the teen pregnancy rate in Mississippi has been declining in recent years, the state continues to lag far behind other states in rates of births to teens and in sexually transmitted infections.

Project ME.’s goal is to ensure Mississippi youth have knowledge and information to reduce their risk, but more importantly, to make informed decisions about their lives.  Project ME. uses six colorful illustrations and storytelling to address topics such as relationships, consent, depression, anxiety, birth control access/contraception, body confidence, LGBTQ allyship, and friendship.

Although the project is social media based, there are 10 Project ME. Influencers (ages 14-25) creating face-to-face connections with their peers across the state.  ME. Influencers’ responsibilities also include: crafting character story lines, hosting community-based workshops, vetting content to ensure youth-friendly brand identity, and sharing project related information.

Project ME. Influencer Marchellos Scott, 16, says, “ME. is something amazing because it focuses on so many real-life problems. We [teens] all are dealing with problems and having something like ME. really comes in handy. I’m really excited about being part of the project.”

“The exciting thing about this project is that it puts accurate, youth-friendly information about mental health and sexual health right into the hands of teens- literally-  who have the hardest time getting it- teens who live in rural areas and who, historically, are undeserved in these health care areas,” shares Justin Lofton, Youth Engagement Coordinator for Teen Health Mississippi.

Project ME. is entirely youth-led. Youth may find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat under the username “MS.TeamMe”.

Teen Health Mississippi is a nonpartisan nonprofit that envisions a Mississippi built on a foundation of healthy communities in which all teens have access to high-quality sex education and youth-friendly healthcare services. All of Teen Health Mississippi’s work is in partnership with youth and falls within three primary domains: policy and advocacy, training and capacity building, and programs and initiatives.

To learn more information about the ME. Project, visit  https://teenhealthms.org/policy-and-advocacy/mypage/ or contact Justin Lofton at justin@teenhealthms.org  or by phone (601)487-1228.

Teen Health Mississippi Hires Executive Director

Jackson, MS—Teen Health Mississippi is excited to announce the selection of Dr. Hope L. Crenshaw to serve as Executive Director. Dr. Crenshaw will officially join the team in her new role on May 15, 2018. The Teen Health Mississippi advisory board, with the generous help of a volunteer search committee, led the search process.

“With Hope’s selection, Teen Health Mississippi takes its next step in becoming a stand-alone teen health organization. Hope has been a great asset to our team over the past eighteen months in her role as Director of Education and Training, and we are excited to support her in this new position as Executive Director,” said Marni von Wilpert, Chair of the Teen Health Mississippi Advisory Board.

Hope L. Crenshaw is a native of Crenshaw, Mississippi. She graduated from M.S. Palmer High School in Marks, Mississippi, before receiving her B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Hope also received her M.A. in Sociology from Minnesota State University—Mankato. After six Minnesota winters, she returned to the warmth of the Mississippi Delta and served as a high school English and Social Studies instructor for four years at M.S. Palmer. During this time, she earned her Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of Mississippi. Determined to learn more about equity and serving underserved communities, Hope pursued and completed her Ph.D. in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign, with a focus on equity and data-driven decision-making.

Hope has served as the Director of Education and Training at Teen Health Mississippi since October 2016. As Director of Education and Training, she led the Mississippi Sex Education Training Cadre, a 15-member team of professional trainers who provide workshops to current and future sex educators. She also designed training modules to build healthy youth-adult interactions and developed relationships with Mississippi community leaders, school districts, colleges/universities, and faith leaders to rally their support for youth sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Hope Crenshaw states, “I am excited about this new opportunity and challenge. My years of education and work experience paired with my dedication and commitment to the state of Mississippi have prepared me for my new role. I look forward to continuing to bring resources and knowledge to underserved communities to support the overall health and wellness of youth.”

Teen Health Mississippi is dedicated to partnering with young people to provide sustainable and holistic sexual health programs and services for youth in schools, healthcare clinics, and communities across the state. Teen Health Mississippi engages youth advocates and community stakeholders to champion important policies at state, local, and organizational levels that improve teen sexual health.

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Meet MYCouncil Member -Jefferson Davis

We are continuing features on our Mississippi Youth Council (MYCouncil) members. MYCouncil is made up of 10 passionate youth activists from across Mississippi that support and promote high-quality comprehensive sex education for all young people. They work to ensure that young people have a voice in the debate around what gets taught in Mississippi schools. Follow MYCouncil on Facebook.

Meet MS Sex Education Training Cadre Member – Meg Hayden

The Mississippi Sex Education Training Cadre is a statewide training cadre comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience working with a variety of different populations and communities. The goal of this statewide cadre of trainers is to increase the capacity and comfort of sexual health educators throughout Mississippi, particularly in our CHART communities, so that they have the core skills and content knowledge to teach high-quality sex education.

Meet MYCouncil Member -Triuna Taylor

We are continuing features on our Mississippi Youth Council (MYCouncil) members. MYCouncil is made up of 10 passionate youth activists from across Mississippi that support and promote high-quality comprehensive sex education for all young people. They work to ensure that young people have a voice in the debate around what gets taught in Mississippi schools. Follow MYCouncil on Facebook.

Meet Teen Health Mississippi’s Emily Feher

Over the next few months, we will be running features on Teen Health Mississippi’s staff and partners. Teen Health Mississippi is the only organization that partners with young people to provide sustainable and holistic sexual health programs and services for youth in schools, clinics, and communities across the state. Visit our website.

Meet MYCouncil Member-Courtney Simmons

Over the next few months, we will be running features on our Mississippi Youth Council (MYCouncil) members. MYCouncil is made up of 10 passionate youth activists from across Mississippi that support and promote high-quality comprehensive sex education for all young people. They work to ensure that young people have a voice in the debate around what gets taught in Mississippi schools. Follow MYCouncil on Facebook.