Tea Time with Teens
- Need: To lower teen pregnancy rates in Marlboro County, South Carolina, and develop teen leaders.
- Intervention: Tea Time with Teens brings together community leaders, mothers, and daughters to build life skills and make healthy decisions.
- Results: Since 2009, the program has been educating teens on making healthy choices and adults on having meaningful conversations with teens.
According to Fact Forward (formerly the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy), Marlboro County has the second highest teen pregnancy rate in South Carolina, with 45.6 births per 1,000 mothers ages 15-19 in 2018.
Tea Time with Teens began in 2009. Originally designed to reduce the high teen pregnancy rate in Marlboro County, the program has expanded to support the development of girls ages 13-18 into intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually grounded young women. Through bonding with their mentors, mothers/guardians, and community leaders, girls learn how to see themselves as capable, valued leaders.
Tea Time with Teens offers a year-round program with monthly meetings and a Summer Institute with weekly meetings. The overall program is run by volunteers and funded through grants. The Summer Institute was completely run by volunteers and donations, with teens paying a $5 registration fee. Since the fee served mostly to count the number of participants, girls who were unable to pay were still able to attend.
Tea Time with Teens partners with the following organizations, among others:
- Coalition for Family Enrichment in Marlboro County
- Fact Forward
- Children's Defense Fund
- Bennettsville-Cheraw Area Cooperative Ministry
Any Marlboro County girls ages 13-18 are eligible to join Tea Time with Teens. There is no registration fee for the year-round program. Registration for the summer program is $5, which includes a T-shirt, field trips, and other activities. Transportation is provided to girls and guardians as needed.
In the kickoff meeting, mothers/guardians attend the program with their daughters and discuss the "seeds" that are being planted: the values that mothers feel they are instilling in their daughters and the values that the daughters feel they are learning from their mothers.
At the end of the kickoff, the families receive a packet of seeds that they are encouraged to plant together. The daughters give their mothers a red rose and share the positive qualities they see in their mothers that they also want to see blooming in themselves. During the Closing Celebration, mothers present their daughters with yellow roses, sharing what they see blossoming in them.
The Summer Institute covers topics such as:
- Having Quality Relationships
- Identity and Perception
- Positive Communication and Resolving Conflict
- Self Awareness – Social Media Perceptions and Safety
- Serving and Giving
The topics are complemented with a curriculum called "Making a Difference," approved by the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (now Fact Forward) and borrowed from its lending library. This curriculum focuses on preventing pregnancy and STDs. Tea Time with Teens also addresses teens' misconceptions about their bodies and myths about pregnancy and other related issues.
Participants complete community service projects such as Relay for Life and take field trips such as college tours and a trip to South Carolina's state capitol building led by a female state representative. Teens who do not normally get a chance to lead and take part in giving back to their communities gain these opportunities through this program.
Women in the community can volunteer their time by:
- Becoming an advisor
- Bringing baked goods to events and meetings
- Chaperoning a field trip
- Collecting cups and saucers for tea
- Coordinating service learning projects
- Teaching a skill like sewing or applying for college
- Writing grants
The Tea Time with Teens Summer Leadership Institute ends with a Closing Celebration, which is open to the public. This celebration allows the teens to show off their leadership skills throughout the evening. Each teen introduces herself and proudly shares something wonderful that she sees blossoming within. This celebration allows participants to reflect on what the Summer Institute meant to them and how it benefited them.
In the summer of 2016, 35 girls participated in the Tea Time with Teens Summer Leadership Institute. While no formal research has been done yet, the program's records show a reduction in the county's teen pregnancy rates since the program began.
Program coordinators report that, even among teens at high risk for pregnancy, no teens participating in the program have become pregnant. However, two teens who graduated from the program became pregnant at 19, which speaks to the issues of supporting teens post-program.
In 2019, program coordinators held an event called TEA TALKS, funded by Fact Forward. The event was for adults to learn how to have meaningful conversations with teenagers about love, relationships, and sex and to learn about volunteering with Tea Time with Teens. The event had 80 participants.
Currently, Tea Time with Teens programs are operating in the following areas of Marlboro County: Clio, Wallace, Salem, and the outskirts of Bennettsville areas with approximately 60 participants. In January 2020, program coordinators, along with Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools afterschool programs, plan to provide Tea Time programming in Marlboro County middle and high schools.
You can read more about this program in the Rural Monitor article Over Tea, South Carolina Girls Learn about Healthy Decisions.
Funding and transportation have been barriers. All field trips require transportation and, in rural areas like Marlboro County, programs need vans, buses, or a vehicle they can share with other programs.
The program requires dedicated adults to serve as advisors and committed volunteers. The Marlboro County School District Family Literacy program, the SC United Methodist Conference, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bennettsville, the Marlboro County Children's Defense Fund program, and many volunteers helped get the program started.
To expand the program and ready it for replication, plans are to:
- Continually develop the curriculum
- Develop a cadre of trainers to train other advisors
- Implement a quality control plan
- Participate in a formal evaluation and research project
- Conduct a self-study
- Develop a sustainability plan
- Secure funding to bring the program to scale and for all of the above
In order for new programs to replicate Tea Time with Teens effectively:
- Recruit a dedicated coordinator so everything runs smoothly
- Train advisors to deliver the curriculum and to become comfortable working with teens
- Plan meetings so that they are well structured (begin and end on time)
- Raise funding to adequately implement the program
- Develop partners
The Tea Time with Teens program is well structured with a curriculum, advisors' training manual, and teen workbook. In the training, advisors and volunteers receive all handouts and materials needed to implement the program. The training is crucial: It helps adults really understand how to interact with teens and feel comfortable talking about sensitive subjects.
Contact InformationMarian R. David, Coordinator
Tea Time with Teens
Children and youth
Community and faith-based initiatives
Community engagement and volunteerism
August 10, 2016
Date updated or reviewed
November 18, 2019
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.