The Charleston-area Communities in Schools program is a place where high school junior Chelsea Brown can ask questions about sex.
"You can talk to people about birth control and ask for doctors," the St. John's High School student said. "You can talk about sex openly. They give us good advice and make us feel comfortable."
The program is among the factors advocates are crediting for a drop in the state's teenage birth rate.
The rate of babies born to teenage mothers in South Carolina in 2010 dropped for the third consecutive year, hitting an all-time recorded low, according to a report released this month by the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. South Carolina has the 12th-highest overall teen birth rate in the country, according to the report.
In Charleston County, the teen birth rate dropped nearly 23 percent: 44 births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2009 compared with 34.1 in 2010, according to state data analyzed by the nonprofit group. That figure is lower than both the 2010 state rate of 42.6 per 1,000 and the national rate of 34.3. The 2010 data is the most recent available.
Statewide, black and Hispanic teenagers had significantly higher birth rates than whites in 2010, the report said. The rate among Hispanics, at 64.3 births per 1,000 girls, was nearly double that of whites, who had a rate of 32.7. The rate among blacks was 56.6.
Forrest Alton, CEO of the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, characterized the findings as an overall win for the state.
"In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control deemed teen pregnancy a winnable battle, and I am happy to report that we are currently winning that battle in South Carolina," Alton said.
Behind the drop, Alton said, is a new "culture of openness" and local programming.
Leland Rivers, a junior at St. John's High School, said the program has taught him "valuable lessons."
"They teach you about teen pregnancy and how to have protected sex," said Rivers, who said he has been involved with the group since eighth grade. "They talk about how sex, drugs and alcohol affect your health."
Other reasons behind the statewide drop in the past decade? Less sex and more contraceptives, according to the report.