By Sean Olson, University Relations

Two years ago, a program at UNCG, College Bound Sisters, was slated for closure.

Despite racking up regional, national and even international awards for adolescent pregnancy prevention, the program had run out of funding in June 2003. Just weeks away from closing down, a four-year grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services kept the program running, and once again the program is winning awards.

The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina recognized CBS with an award for the teen intervention program on May 4.

Begun in 1997 by School of Nursing Professor Dr. Hazel Brown and the graduate school’s Dr. Rebecca Saunders, CBS is a program with three goals for its girls: to avoid pregnancy, to graduate from high school and to enroll in college.

The program brings 24 at-risk female students between the ages of 12 and 16 to campus for weekly meetings. Each of the participants is the younger sister of a teen mother. For each meeting, the girls receive $5 for transportation, plus $7 that is deposited in their own college fund. During meetings, students work on a curriculum that emphasizes pregnancy prevention, academics, relationship management and other goals. In addition, students experience a college campus by using the recreation center, attending classes, eating in the cafeteria and other activities. The idea is to give students the social support to avoid pregnancy and stay in school while giving them exposure to a college environment.

Statistically, the program works. Of the 80 young women served by CBS over the years, 16 graduated from high school, 14 enrolled in a college or university and only five became pregnant.

The figures for their cohorts are not as optimistic. Among a comparison group of 67 women who did not attend CBS, only 12 graduated from high school, only six enrolled in college and 13 became pregnant.

Part of the success of the program, said Brown, is the fact that it uses a holistic, long-term approach to a problem.

“I think the thing that makes this program different from other teen pregnancy prevention programs is its comprehensiveness,” Brown said. “We look at the total girl.”

For that reason, the program costs about $75,000 per year to run and that, the founders concede, is not cheap. But the alternative is even more costly.

“It’s not cheap to run,” Saunders said. “But if you look at the girls’ successes, you see the long-term savings. Girls who succeed in the CBS program are unlikely to be a burden on society like many of their peers might be. We have no doubt as to the value of this program when you hear the stories of these girls.”

Much of the credit, Saunders and Brown said, goes to the program’s current and past directors, Martine Powell and Laurie Smith, respectively.

For more information on CBS or for volunteering or other support opportunities, call (336) 334-5193.