Program helps young ladies prevent unwanted pregnancies

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A new program in South Mississippi is trying to steer young ladies away from unwanted teen pregnancies. On Thursday, the first group to complete the program was honored at a ceremony in Gulfport.

"I just want to say that I learned to love myself and that nobody's going to take care of me like me," one young lady told the crowd.

They spoke with confidence and grace. Twenty eight young ladies, ages 16 to 19, have made a commitment to take charge of their lives.

"I feel great! I'm so excited, because I know myself better now than I did at the beginning. So I feel like I've accomplished something," said 19-year-old Ariel Cornelson. "I learned that I'm strong, I'm a smart person, and I can do anything if I put my mind to it."

That path to self-discovery started six weeks ago when they enrolled in the "Celebrate Me" program, hosted by the CLIMB Community Development Corporation. The young ladies are considered low-income or disadvantaged youths. They attended workshops to learn how to set personal and family goals and build self-esteem so they can make the right choices to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies.

"By first knowing who you are, what your personality strengths, where you want to go in life that if an opportunity arises where another person wants you do to something, such as have intimate sex, you will have the tenacity to stop and say, 'Wait a minute, is this in my best interest? And what are the long term consequences?'" said Dr. Estelle Robinson, the Program Psychologist.

Now, their class is the first to graduate from the program. They celebrated Thursday with a party featuring a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" theme.

"You respect yourself and if you can better your life, all that can wait. Go to school, finish school, then have a family and do whatever. But grow up a little first, because you'll regret it later," said Cornelson.

The "Celebrate Me" program is funded by the Women's Fund of Mississippi. The students are also participants in the CLIMB CDC's YouthBuild and Cafe Climb programs or the Gulfport Job Corps Center.  The next class starts in two weeks.  For more information, call CLIMB CDC at (228) 864-6677.

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