Member Spotlight: The North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens
By Perdita Henry
The conversation surrounding sexual health education is often framed as difficult for everyone involved, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (Ntarupt) is working to create sustainable change in their community by focusing their work on sexual health education, public awareness, and community mobilization.
Based in Dallas, Ntarupt strives “collaboratively to create a North Texas in which every young person in our community has the opportunity to set goals, plan an education and a career, and become self-sufficient before becoming a parent,” Veronica Whitehead, MEd, CHES, director of programs, says. “We engage in community mobilization through partnerships and collaboration with local community-based organizations and key stakeholders. Through sexual health education we provide four different evidence-based programs to pre-teens, teens, and their parents with over 40 different community-based partners, as well as reproductive life planning and healthcare linkages as a Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas recipient.”
Earlier this year, Ntarupt launched the public awareness campaign, Talk About It Dallas, which encourages the community to talk about sexual and reproductive health. So, I wanted to sit down with Whitehead to learn more about Ntarupt’s work and why it’s important that everyone comes to the table to talk about sexual and reproductive health.
How does sexual health education factor into Ntarupt’s mission?
Sexual health education is our jam! Access to medically accurate, trauma informed, LGBTQ+ inclusive, comprehensive sex education, and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, is a basic human right. Research supports, when parents talk to their children about sex with a shame-free, non-judgmental approach; young people are more likely to engage in health seeking behaviors. Similarly, when adolescents have access to credible, reliable, and relatable sex education, they are more likely to advocate for themselves and their sexual and reproductive health.
At Ntarupt, we provide evidence-based sex education to pre-teens, teens, and parents with over 40 different community partners. Talking about sex can be hard and awkward, we get that, which is why it’s important to us to be in spaces where people feel comfortable, such as community centers, churches, laundry mats, clinics, Zumba class, and other similar locations.
Teaching sexual health education in North Texas is a big task, which is why we work toward creating a sustainable system change in which school districts and community-based organizations adopt policies in support of comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education. Ntarupt is changing the culture around talking about sex by having tough conversations with all people, the time is now, to Talk About It, Dallas.
What is Families Talking Together and how does it work?
Families Talking Together (FTT) is an evidence-based program for the parents of pre-teens. It’s designed to teach parents effective communication skills, build parent-adolescent relationships, help parents develop successful monitoring strategies, and teach adolescents assertiveness and refusal skills.
The program can be delivered in a small group or one-on-one settings for one-to-two hours, depending on group size. We provide FTT in English and Spanish in a variety of settings including Zumba classes, laundry mats, clinics, apartments, and churches. Most of the parents in our program want to talk to their children about sex, because no one talked to them, but they don’t know how. Based on parent feed-back we expanded the two-hour program to include additional information and support.
Ntarupt is very involved in the community – you often speak at events and bring parents along to speak to audiences. How do you establish and maintain these important relationships?
Maintaining relationships is crucial to the work and mission of Ntarupt. We cannot achieve our mission alone and it would become obsolete without the support of parents and community members. The best way to establish and maintain these relationships is to become fully invested in partnerships and relationships. When we provide our parent or student programs, the relationships do not stop there. We attend program graduations, organizational fairs, town hall meetings, and participate in community boards. If there are issues or topics that are important to our partners, they are important to us too.
Reproductive Justice is an important part of your work. What is Reproductive Justice and how does it factor into your mission?
Reproductive Justice, as defined by Sister Song, is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.
The term Reproductive Justice was coined by a group of black women in 1994, with the recognition that the women’s rights movement of the time did not meet the needs of women of color or other marginalized women. Access to quality, comprehensive, inclusive, trauma informed sexual health education and sexual/reproductive healthcare is directly tied to Reproductive Justice. It’s just one of several ways in which people maintain personal bodily autonomy.
You all host an annual Student Film Contest featuring student produced content. How did this event get started?
The Ntarupt Student Film Contest is an annual event that aims to raise community awareness and vital funds to support Ntarupt’s work. The student film contest was created for Dallas area high schools’ students to share their unique perspectives on various topics related to sex, dating, information, and social media.
Each 3-minute film is judged by local film critics and leaders and the top 12 are screened at the event. The top 5 winners each receive a cash prize and participate in a closing panel discussion. Our 5th Annual Student Film Contest will be held February 9, 2020, at the Wyly Theatre.
Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?
Establishing equitable access for women’s reproductive healthcare in a state such as Texas is a big task and can only be done through partnerships and collaboration. Being a member of TWHC allows us to stay up-to-date on various policy and advocacy efforts in the state. While much of our work is focused in the Dallas/ North Texas area, it is reassuring and affirming to know there is an entire Coalition across the state working towards the same outcomes in a variety of different ways.
What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to Ntarupt?
An ideal future for women’s health is one in which all people have unobstructed, undeniable access to healthcare and information that is free of bias or shame. Bodily autonomy will be the norm, for all women regardless of race, religion, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation and healthy conversations around sexual and reproductive health will be the experience of all people.
If you are interested in setting up a class or learning more about Ntarupt, contact them at email@example.com. For more information on the 5th Annual Student Film Contest, check out their events page. You can follow them on Instagram @ntarupt.