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10/2007 Project S.T.A.R. is Providing Needed Services to at Risk Teens

Have you ever wished upon a S.T.A.R.?  Many high school teens in Chicopee have.  Project S.T.A.R., Support for Teens at Risk, is a teen pregnancy prevention program that began in 2003 and targets at risk males and females ages 12-21 years old.  The program provides comprehensive counseling services and referrals to community resources that support high risk adolescents.  River Valley Counseling Center, Inc. (RVCC) offers Project STAR services within the Chicopee High Schools, at RVCC’s neighborhood clinic located at 147 Grape St., Chicopee and through outreach if needed. 

S.T.A.R. provides crisis intervention; individual counseling sessions; family sessions; casework; referrals and registration in other community resources; advocacy within the school system and the community programs; psycho-educational sessions on substance abuse, contraception; sexuality information including STDs and pregnancy, family life education, conflict resolution and anger management.  The majority of program funding is provided by the United Way of Pioneer Valley and third party reimbursements. 

The program engages high risk youth using three specific prevention strategies.  They include:
Primary intervention – This strategy uses peer presentations given by teen moms as part of Health and Child Development classes in the high schools.  These presentations allow teens to interact with teen parents and gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges that teen pregnancy and parenting present.
Secondary interventions – This strategy uses individual psychotherapy and psycho-educational sessions that focus on behaviors that may lead to teen pregnancy for students who are not pregnant;
Tertiary Interventions – This strategy uses individual psychotherapy psycho-education and referral sessions focusing on the needs of students who are pregnant and/or have become teen-age parents. 

The STAR program evaluation and Peer Presentation survey reinforces the positive impact the program has had on many teens. Teens who are involved with STAR think more seriously about the ramifications of teen pregnancy and the need for prescribed contraception if they choose to become sexually active. Both males and females show improvement in problem solving; identifying emotions that lead to depression and/or increase participation in risky behavior; and seeking out helpful resources.  All this helps reduce the chance of future unexpected teen pregnancies.  For teens who were not pregnant, data indicates a significant increase in use of prescribed contraception and a moderate increase in the choice for sexual abstinence. The data also indicates a reduction in repeat pregnancies for those who entered the program pregnant. 

For more information about this program, contact Jane Damaris at 549-2141.  Your call could make a difference and be a wish come true for an at- risk teen.