Podcast Transcript: Karl Kallgren


Karl Kallgren, director of the Union City Sustained Youth Development Project, talks to NCFY about the highly personalized youth program that has helped teen pregnancy rates drop by 20 percent in this rural Pennsylvania community.
Time: 4:00 | Size: 3.7 MB


NCFY: Welcome to Voices from the Field, a podcast series from the Family and Youth Services Bureau.  Union City, a 4,000-person community in Northwest Pennsylvania, has seen its teen pregnancy rates decline by nearly 20 percent in the last seven years.  These results come courtesy of the Union City Sustained Youth Development Project, which was designed to treat teen pregnancy as just one part of a larger web of a local youth issues.  Karl Kallgren, a Professor of Psychology at Penn State Erie, and a Director of the Youth Development Project, recalls Jack, a young man whose story reveals just how targeted the project’s efforts were.

KALLGREN:  Our truancy officer, Chris Frazier, met Jack who was a kid who was missing school quite a bit.  His senior year of high school, he did well, he was getting there.  He got right towards the end and he starred slipping.  Chris talked to Jack and said, you come into school.  I’ll meet with you.  And we will go over your work and make sure you get everything done so you graduate. 

Really, it comes down to: every youth matters, one youth at a time.  There is not a youth in Union City that their circumstance is not known and their trajectory—whether they’re going up or they’re going down.  We do the developmental assets.  There’s a DAP survey every year in school.  And we also, there’s ... Pennsylvania has the Pennsylvania youth survey they do every other year. The youth report that they feel that they can talk to their teachers.  Their teachers understand them.  That they have a good sense that they’re valued by the school.

NCFY: Kallgren doesn’t necessarily think that Union City’s intense one‑on‑one approach will work everywhere.  Instead, he advocates that every community has its own fabric and character.  And a youth-serving program has to adapt to them to be successful.

KALLGREN:  We call our project the Union City’s Sustained Youth Development Project.  We’re building it into the fabric of the community with all these different components so that they are sustained and they do go into the future.  It’s not just a research demonstration project and that’s it.  It’s a demonstration project of permanent change in the community. 

We have a consumer science teacher who does incredible programming, working with a small group of kids for being peer educators.  They wear shirts [so] that they can be identified and other kids know that they can go up and ask them questions.  And they create a hall of knowledge with information, that students when they go through the hall, they learn about different things, with teen pregnancy and with other health and mental health issues.  We also have a very effective school nurse and we’ve finally just gotten a reproductive health care center in town one day a month working with that to get some health care actually in this small community.  And that’s been a real struggle.

We do talk about sex.  We do it in a way that’s appropriate in the community and respectful.  And in Union City, when youth go to the clinic, they are evidence based programs that have been demonstrated to be effective and reduce whatever, either teen pregnancy or HIV or increase contraceptive use.  We work with students to say they have a sense that there is a future for them.  When youth have that sense, they will tend to not want to mess that up. 

NCFY: For more information on teen pregnancy prevention, visit the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, online at ncfy.acf.hhs.gov.



National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth | 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800 | North Bethesda, MD 20852 | (301) 608-8098 | ncfy@acf.hhs.gov