My Catawba County

Teen Empowerment, COA-Style

Teen Empowerment, COA-Style

The Council on Adolescents (COA) is the lead agency in teen education and prevention programs in Catawba County. COA serves more than 5,500 adolescents each year through a variety of in-school and community programs. To learn more, we reached out to COA Executive Director Jordan Ledford.

What is Council on Adolescents?
The Council on Adolescents (COA) is educating teens about teen pregnancy prevention, preventing distracted driving, making healthy choices, planning for the future, and resisting peer pressure. COA also offers programming to pregnant and parenting teens to prevent a subsequent pregnancy and ensure these youth graduate. COA provides programming for parents as well, covering these sensitive topics and offering additional resources.

What programs or services does Council on Adolescents offer?

Healthy Youth Education: The Council's main educational initiative is in the area of comprehensive sexuality education, as required by the North Carolina Healthy Youth Act, and encouraging abstinence-until marriage. Our Healthy Youth Education Programs are integrated, sequential, age-appropriate, medically accurate, and interactive. Our target populations are adolescents between the ages of 10-18 in Catawba County. Through in-school education programs, we teach healthy alternatives to risky behaviors. We currently serve more than 5,000 youth in Catawba County Schools, Hickory Public Schools, Concordia Christian Day School, St. Stephens Lutheran School, Hickory Day School and University Christian High School.

Lunch Buddy: The Lunch Buddy Program is currently implemented in all nine middle schools in Catawba County, including one alternative school. The program is also currently being piloted in several elementary schools in the Catawba County School System to serve those sixth grade students. This mentoring program is designed to help reach students who are identified by school personnel as being at-risk and meet the criteria of potentially dropping out of school. The goal of this program is to create healthy attitudes and behaviors in youth, as well as provide skills, resources, and positive experiences that will help them become successful, productive citizens. Mentors spend one lunch period each week during an entire school year with their mentee to accomplish this goal.

Teen Talk:  A NCDHHS funded program in which our staff provides a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) to at-risk adolescents across the community. This program is based in the community and is aimed to prevent risky behaviors that lead to teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, while encouraging youth to make healthy choices. This program utilizes two evidence-based curricula to serve 100 middle and high school aged youth.

Smart Moms & Dads: A NCDHHS funded program which serves 15-20 pregnant and parenting students across Catawba County. The goal of this program is to help young mothers and fathers graduate high school and prevent subsequent pregnancies. 

Distracted Driving: In collaboration with other agencies in the community, COA has also taken on the initiative to prevent distracted driving among high school students in Catawba County. This year’s contest consisted of students creating a billboard design addressing the dangers of distracted driving. Three designs were chosen to be displayed on a billboard, and those students were awarded a cash prize.

How do people access the services offered by Council on Adolescents?
Most of our services are provided through in-school programming. Parents/guardians can request for their child to be in the Lunch Buddy Program through contacting our office or through their school counselor. Pregnant and parenting teens can access services through our website, social media, or a school representative.

Who is eligible for the services offered by Council on Adolescents?
Catawba County adolescents between the ages of 10-18 are the target population for all educational programming. The Healthy Youth Education program is for students grades 5-9, Lunch Buddy Mentoring Program serves students grades 6-8, Teen Talk is for students grades 6-9, and the Smart Moms and Dads Program is for any pregnant or parenting teen. We also provide resources regarding adolescents for all Catawba County parent/guardians.

How many families/individuals are impacted on average per year by the services provided by Council on Adolescents?
COA serves more than 5,500 youth and their families each school year.

Is there anything you would like to add?
COA teaches healthy alternatives to risky behavior and is recognized as the leading agency for data regarding adolescents in our area. Since COA’s inception and program implementation, the teen pregnancy rate has reduced more than 80% since our peak in 1990.