When Kristen Jordan graduated from Clemson University, she didn't know she was about to change the world. At least one little corner of the world.
Fate played a major role in placing the 27-year-old in a pilot program teaching sex education at Starr-Iva Middle School in rural Anderson County, where local officials were serious about attacking the problem of teen pregnancy.
"It's a cycle," said Jordan, a graduate of Stratford High School. "Sons of teenage mothers are more likely to go to jail. Daughters of teenage mothers are more likely to become pregnant. It just goes on and on and on."
Jordan starts working with kids in the sixth grade, not just preaching abstinence, but really educating them about sex.
"This school district took a big step," she said. "In the beginning, they were worried about backlash from the community, but there hasn't been any. Everything has been positive. No complaints from parents."
That's because teen pregnancies are down almost 90 percent (19 in 2004; two in 2008) in that area since she began her classes five years ago.
Word of Jordan's success caught the attention of Time magazine. Last week, the publication ran a story titled "How To End The War Over Sex Ed," and Jordan was featured with a full-page color photograph.
"We were very pleased and excited about that," Jordan said. "We just hope it helps spread the word that this kind of program can make a difference."
And here's why. Jordan doesn't work for the school system. She's employed by IMPACT, a teen pregnancy prevention program (www.aoimpact.org), which was instituted in Anderson County schools by the local United Way.
"It actually makes a big difference that I don't work for the school," Jordan said. "The kids feel free to call me, even at home at night, and discuss their issues. I'm not there to judge them. I'm there to help them understand."
Because it's not just the at-risk kids getting pregnant.
"It's the kids who go to church every Sunday," she said. "The kid who is the captain of the cheerleading squad."
Jordan's classes, therefore, reach all the students, teaching one course on basic sexuality and another on decision-making skills.
But it's just one program in one school.
One kid at a time
Believe it or not, South Carolina is a leader in mandating sex education in our public schools. But it's not provided equally, or well.
"When I was in high school, I got a P.E. teacher who read straight out of a 30-year-old text book," Jordan said. "I didn't know anything."
And college wasn't much better. Despite earning a degree in health science, Jordan's real sex education came when she interned with IMPACT right before graduation.
"I really wasn't looking to work with kids," Jordan said. "But this job is not just teaching. With this job, you really get into their lives."
And change the world, one kid at a time.