What does your organization do?The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, aims to reduce teen pregnancy through research, advocacy, collaboration and training. Our vision is that every Texas teen has access to the information and resources to prevent unintended pregnancy.
Since 2009, the Texas Campaign has worked to build constructive dialogue among partners statewide around teen pregnancy, adolescent sexual health, and effective prevention strategies. We work at a systems-level, engaging adult stakeholders who work with youth, including healthcare providers, educators, policymakers, advocacy groups, community-based organizations and philanthropists.
Our four key strategies are:
• Research & Data: We analyze and disseminate data on teen pregnancy and teen birth. including prevention strategies proven effective globally, nationally and here in the Lone Star State.
• Collaboration: We partner with others across the state on programs designed to leverage local and regional resources with statewide systems change.
• Advocacy: We advocate for public policies that increase young Texans’ access to knowledge and healthcare to prevent unintended pregnancy
• Training: We ensure our partners have the opportunity to learn from one another and access the resources they need to advance the work in their home communities.
How did you become interested in this work?I have always been interested in systems-level solutions to the challenges our society is facing and have spent most of my career in statewide nonprofit management and youth development.
In 2016, I was appalled when a philanthropy group I had joined refused to consider a funding application for sexual health education. I believe preparing young people to take personal responsibility for their decisions is essential to positive youth development. On a broader scale, I believe preventing unintended pregnancy is one of the necessary tools to address generational cycles of poverty. Needless to say, I was inspired to take action!
What drives your passion?Opportunity for impact is my biggest motivator. One of our current projects is a cross-sector research and planning project designing strategies to prevent pregnancy among and provide parenting supports to youth in the child welfare system in the Houston area. If we are successful, we could scale solutions statewide and make improvements in the systems that serve Texas’ most vulnerable youth. Exciting stuff!
Did you have a mentor or a role model?Yes – several!
My current OneVoice buddy is the incomparable Suki Steinhauser, CEO of Communities In Schools of Central Texas. We’ve known each other for years and now have a great excuse to get together regularly! She’s a seasoned pro, a great listener and gives advice on everything from board governance to work-life balance. She’s amazing and I am a better nonprofit leader for knowing her.
Another person I admire greatly is Melinda Gates. I bought her book ‘The Moment of Lift’ when it came out earlier this year and have gifted more than 25 copies to our board, staff, colleagues and friends! Her perspective on the empowerment of women as a global economic development strategy and human rights issue is compelling - especially in the chapter that talks about her experience reconciling her philanthropic investment in increasing access to contraception with her strong Catholic faith.
She also made gains in gender equity in her own community by convincing her husband to drop off the kids at daycare. Shortly thereafter, a bunch of dads were doing daycare drop-off duty. Apparently, if Bill Gates can prioritize that responsibility, then other dads could too. Her influence in all spheres is inspirational!
What's the biggest challenge in your work?No one ever said that working in the field of adolescent reproductive health in the Lone Star State would be easy – and it’s not! But we have a fantastic team of dedicated professionals that make it incredibly rewarding.
Our work is at the intersection of personal values and science in an issue area that can be controversial and often overly politicized. We constantly encounter myths and ideological narratives that are categorically false and harmful.
To confront that, we stay focused on research regarding what works in empowering
young people to make informed decisions about their health and futures.
What's the best advice that you have ever received?There are two pieces which have stuck with me over the years.
When I was a kid, I had gotten upset about something that happened at school. I remember my grandmother trying to comfort me saying, ‘in ten years, it won’t matter’. I try to focus my energy on things that will make a difference in the long run.
Later in life, I was thinking of going to grad school overseas, but was worried about disrupting my career, taking on student loans, moving far away, etc. I was in a roller derby league at the time and one of the founders (aptly referred to as the She-E-O’s) told me, ‘I’d rather regret something I did than regret something I didn’t do’. She was right - I went back to school and I don’t regret it. (Though student loan debt is REAL, y’all.) Since then, I’ve tried to make bold decisions more easily.
What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?First and foremost, find your people! Being an E.D. can be isolating. It is essential to find a buddy or network with whom you can problem-solve, brainstorm, or just let off steam.
Next, give yourself some grace. The job is challenging - and I’ve never met anyone who was fully prepared for it when they first started. The trick is to own your mistakes, do what you can to correct them, then learn from the experience to avoid repeating them.
Finally, make self-care a priority and habit ASAP! To keep that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling at bay, I try to do at least one of these things each day: exercise, meditate, connect with someone I care about or take a nap. (This last one is like the elusive unicorn, but it’s worth a shot on the weekends!)