Inside the halls of Tulsa’s Nathan Hale High School, pregnant and expectant youth gathered with a counselor to learn safe sleeping tips for their babies on the way. They’d already had in-depth and vulnerable conversations about what to expect during labor and delivery, how to deal with incessant crying, and at what age babies could start eating solid food.
The young people were part of the city’s Strong Tomorrows initiative, which supports expectant and parenting teens through high school graduation, career and college readiness, subsequent pregnancy counseling, quality child care, and parent-engagement workshops. In Oklahoma, the state with the third highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country, advocates and educators in Tulsa have found a balance that has not only lowered teen birth rates in the county but respects young people who do get pregnant. The “purple” city in the deeply conservative “red” state of Oklahoma has managed to reduce teen pregnancy, in keeping with national trends, but it’s also empowering expectant and parenting youth.