Samaria Vereen works for Planned Parenthood, one of few family planning organizations in South Carolina that offers elective abortions.
But she doesn't spend her time encouraging teens to terminate unwanted pregnancies. She mostly tells kids to wait to have sex.
If those two facts seem at odds, they're not: Vereen is one of three Planned Parenthood educators in South Carolina, and her message focuses on delaying sex, having confidence and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
What she tells people in the churches, schools, community centers and wherever else she's asked to speak is left up to event organizers. For example, she doesn't have to talk about birth control if her hosts request that.
"We're not here to push anything on you," she said. "We're not here to push our agenda on anyone."
Planned Parenthood has come under scrutiny lately as Gov. Henry McMaster has attempted to defund the organization in the state. On July 13, McMaster issued an executive order banning the South Carolina Medicaid agency from including Planned Parenthood in its provider network.
"I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone who has been listening to the governor for the past year and a half," McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The Post and Courier after the executive order was announced.
The governor wants to ensure that abortion providers don't receive "a single penny of taxpayer dollars," Symmes said.
Though McMaster's decision may violate federal rules, which mandate that Medicaid patients may seek family planning services at the health care clinics of their own choosing, Planned Parenthood officials have not yet announced if they intend to file a lawsuit against the state. Sarah Riddle, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the organization is "considering all of our legal options."
Meanwhile, educators like Vereen continue to focus on their jobs, including how to tackle challenging sexual health issues, such as South Carolina's higher-than-average teen pregnancy rate and rising rates of STDs.
A series of videos called "Back 2 Basics" are representative of Vereen's attempts to capture teens' attention. The videos have a '90s throwback theme, reminiscent of the once-popular teen sitcom "Saved by the Bell."
In the videos, Vereen and Asia Rivers, a health educator at the Medical University of South Carolina, discuss the myths and facts about STDs and sexual health.
Topher Larkin, a prevention specialist with Roper St. Francis, filmed the first video. After it was published, the team of three started filming at a higher quality studio at MUSC. They now use the videos as teaching tools at various public events. They're also available for free online.
Larkin plays the "Notorious T Larkin" in the series' second video. In the web series and in his role doing outreach for the Ryan White Wellness Center, an HIV-focused clinic at Roper St. Francis, Larkin said it can be tough to navigate the different values each community might have. Church groups, for example, are different than school or parent groups.
"We have to figure out what can we say or what can’t we say," he said. "We want to make sure it’s all-inclusive messaging."
The videos are also short, which Vereen says is a win for the 15- to 24-year-old age range the educators are targeting. It can be tough to keep young people's attention for the hour or more she sometimes needs, she said.
Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the videos are just one more way to reach people they might not have been able to otherwise.
She said for every "partner" — schools, churches and community groups — there is a discussion about what messages they want to hear about sexual health.
Johnson said it surprises some people that generally, Planned Parenthood's educators push a message of delaying the decision to have sex. It's not abstinence-only, she said, but they don't encourage risky behaviors.
The rules of consent have become part of some of the lectures, too. But really, the topics covered are up to the hosts.
"We’re able to tailor our content to our partners’ desire," she said.
Planned Parenthood, which operates clinics in Columbia and Charleston, was founded as an educational organization more than 100 years ago, Johnson said. It is its decision to provide access to abortions that has caused controversy.
The group spends about 20 percent of its revenue on program services outside of medical offerings. Planned Parenthood also calls itself the country's largest provider of sex education.
Vereen hopes the videos will be usable for any and all audiences.
"They're the ones who know what they need," she said.