In Mississippi, 70 percent of all teen pregnancies occur among 18 and 19 year olds, according to Andrea Kane with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy. She says, the rate of teen pregnancies is declining nationwide, but progress is slower among this age group. Kane says Mississippi's 2014 ground breaking legislation that requires colleges and universities create ways to address the issue is drawing attention.
"Just about a month ago, Arkansas actually copied Mississippi and passed almost identical legislation." said Kane.
Methods to reach 18 and 19 year olds includes lessons about teen pregnancy in online first year orientation courses, telling students where they can obtain quality healthcare and contraceptives and helping faculty incorporate the topic in lessons. Twenty-five college women participating in the week-long Mississippi N.E.W. Leadership Program will devise more ways to reach their peers as their project. State Senator Sally Doty says it's about grooming leaders.
"One of my friends like to say, if you're not at the table, you might be on the menu. We need more women who are at the table when decisions are being made because so many of those decisions effect the lives of women and children." said Doty.
Lena Dixon of Chicago, attends Hinds Community College and plans to transfer to Jackson State University.
"I do come from a family where a lot of women have gotten pregnant by age 16 and 18 years old, and so I've seen the effects of teen pregnancy in my own personal life, as well as in my community." said Dixon.
The leadership program is sponsored by the Mississippi University for Women and the Stennis Center for Public Service.