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ISM Meeting the need:

ISMS operate its program in Berrien County, which is located in the southwest region of Michigan and borders Indiana and Lake Michigan. According to the 2000 US Census, there are 36,086 youth ages 5-18 years residing in Berrien County. And, according to statistics, there is a real need to reduce teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse (including tobacco), and suicide in Berrien County. According to the Berrien County Health Department, the Michigan state pregnancy rate for girls ages 15-19 was 55 per 1000 births. The Berrien County rate exceeds the state at 69.7 per 1000, and the rate for the city of Benton Harbor was a staggering 200.4 per 1000 births. The Department of Education cites that children are the most vulnerable during the after school hours. According a recent study, youth are more likely to engage in risky behaviors during unsupervised after school hours. The study concludes, “By offering children rewarding, challenging, and age-appropriate activities in safe, structured and positive environments, after-school programs… can provide youth with positive and healthy alternatives to drug, alcohol and tobacco use, criminal activity, and other high-risk behaviors during the peak crime hours after school.” By offering programming during these critical after school hours, the I’m Saving Myself program provides much needed resources to a potentially at-risk audience.

Benton Harbor is a municipality located within Berrien County that is stricken by unemployment, poverty, and lack of educational attainment – all of which have a direct effect on health behaviors and health outcomes in the community. The unemployment rate in Benton Harbor in April 2004 was a staggering 24.7% (Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth). The Benton Harbor community is also a low educated population with 39.5% of the population who did not graduate high school in 2000 (US Census). A community with statistics such as these may suffer from many issues, and teens can often be the hardest hit. By offering teens alternatives, the ISM program is a crucial program for the entire county.

An alarming number of teen-agers in Berrien County are engaging in sexual activity and believe that this is the accepted norm of society. Teens are making life-threatening decisions that lead, at best to a less than optimal future, and at worst lead to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, unwanted pregnancy and social and psychological demise.

Recently, The Search Institute conducted the Developmental Assets Report: A Profile of your Youth in Berrien County. A survey was performed in participating schools in Berrien County, prepared for Cornerstone Alliance, Benton Harbor Michigan in April 2003. A total of 8285 youth were surveyed from grades 6 – 12. 69% of respondents were white, 20% of the respondents were black, 11% were American Indian, Asian, Hispanic or Multi-racial. According to this survey, 32% of the total sample had sexual intercourse one or more times . Of the sixth graders, 10% had experienced sexual intercourse at least once, and 56% of the 12th graders responded positively. In that same study, almost a fourth of those surveyed (22%) has sexual intercourse three or more times in their lifetime; 48% of 12th graders and an alarming 5% of sixth graders reported more than 3 sexual intercourse experiences.

Berrien County teenagers contribute significantly to the growing number of sexually transmitted infections. In 2005, Berrien County teenagers aged 15-19 years accounted for 41.0% of the Clamydia infections reported; females in this age group were almost five times more likely to be infected than males. Teenagers aged 15-19 years were more likely to be infected with Gonorrhea than any other age group accounting for 32.9% of all infections in Berrien County in 2005.

As of January 1, 2007, there were 211 residents living with HIV or AIDS in Berrien County, and over 40.0% reported transmission via heterosexual contact. Berrien County has the second highest estimated HIV prevalence rate in the state of Michigan behind the City of Detroit. It is estimated that over 25% of residents living with HIV or AIDS do not know their status.

2005  Data on Teen Births



Berrien County

Birth to teens 15-19 (number)



Birth to teens 15-19 (rate/1000)



Births to teens <20 (% of total births)



Births to unwed mothers (% of total births)



Michigan Department of Community Health, Vital Records and Health Data Development Section

2005 Data on Teen Pregnancies for 15-19 Year Olds



Berrien County

Benton Harbor

Number of pregnancies to 15-19 year olds




Rate of pregnancies to 15-19 year olds/1000




 Michigan Department of Community Health, Vital Records and Health Data Development Section

National FACTS

Teen Trends

Increasing numbers of young people are practicing abstinence. The percentage of teens that have had premarital sex declined during the 1990s. In 1991, 54% of teens said they had had sex, compared to 47% in 2003. (Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Youth Risk Behavior Survey 1991-2003.)
In 2004, an independent study found that abstinence programs such as I’m Saving Myself dramatically reducing the rate of out-of-wedlock births.

The study, which tracked the effects of virginity pledges six years later, found that young women who take a virginity pledge are at least 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock and 12 times more likely to be virgins when they marry, compared to young women who do not make such a pledge. (Source: The Heritage Foundation.) Researchers conducting the study noted the delay effect is "substantial and almost impossible to erase." The pledge works, the study suggests, because it creates an "identity movement" or "moral community" that provides peer support for the teen. (Source: The American Journal of Sociology.)
Nationally, the teenage birth rate fell 30 percent from 1991 to 2002, the most recent year for which such statistics are available.

  • In the United States, 35% of all births are out of wedlock. (Source: Births: Final Data for 2003,
    National Vital Statistics Reports 54, September 8, 2005, National Center for Health Statistics)
  • The gross annual cost to society of unwed childbearing and its negative consequences is $29 billion.
    (Source: Kids Having Kids: A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing, The Robin Hood Foundation.)
  • Nearly 80% of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare. (Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004.)
  • A 2005 study of youth in grades 7-11 found that engaging in premarital sex often leads to depression.
    (Source: "Which Comes First in Adolescence - Sex and Drugs or Depression?" American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2005.)
  • A majority of both teen girls and boys who are sexually active wish they had waited until they were older to have sex.
    (Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004.)
Almost all teens (94%) believe that teens should be given a strong message from society to abstain from sex until at least after high school. (Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, "With One Voice 2004: America's Adults and Teens Sound off about Teen Pregnancy," December 2004.)

Report: Developmental Assets:  A Profile of Your Youth, April 2003 by Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN

2005 American Community Survey, US Census Bureau


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