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WASHINGTON -- DeVanna First never imagined becoming a mother at age 17. After a doctor's visit, First found out she wouldn't be taking care of one baby but two. Another trip to the doctor brought another surprise - First was having triplets.

"I started crying and I was in shock," First said. "I was scared, really, really scared. It was enough to deal with that I was pregnant and thinking of taking care of one baby, then they told me twins, then triplets and I said, 'Are you crazy?' My grandmother told them to stop looking."

Like with First, the vast majority of teen pregnancies - 85 percent - are unplanned. For many young mothers, the lack of sexual education plays a role.

The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is an annual event whose goal is to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. which has the highest rate of all developed country. Nearly every hour 100 teen girls get pregnant, and about 55 of those young women choose to have the child.

This year's day, May 3, will feature a quiz, written by young people, which asks teenagers questions about risky scenarios to prepare them for real-life challenges.

The purpose is to motivate teens to start thinking about what they would do in a jeopardizing situation. One out of every seven girls has had sex by her 15th birthday. Are you aware of the risks?

"A lot of people think they know what they would do in certain situations, but they really don't," said Avra Stackpole, a 17-year-old from Virginia who is taking part in the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "The quiz will hopefully make them take a look around and put themselves in someone else's shoes."

Young mothers are more likely to end up on welfare compared with those who postpone having children, they are less likely to complete the education necessary for a high-paying job and their children tend to do worse in school than those with older parents.

Awilda Rodriguez, an 18-year-old from New Britain, Conn., said if she hadn't joined an after-school program geared toward preventing pregnancy when she was in middle school, she most likely would be a mother by now.

She has a lot of friends who are pregnant - which can be frustrating because they can't hang out unless they can find and afford a babysitter - and the only sex education she received was from her after-school program.

"It was very uncomfortable for my mom to talk to me about this stuff and she thought school would talk to me, but school didn't either," Rodriguez said.

Dominique Mooten, 18 and a mother of two, had a similar experience.

"My aunt (with whom Mooten lives) is old-fashioned and she doesn't believe in talking about sex," Mooten said. "She says, 'You don't do it and that's it, there's nothing else to be said,' and school is so censored, teachers aren't allowed to be as open as they want to be."

Catlin Shetter, a 20-year-old student at Cornell University, has been working with young mothers and fathers since she was in high school.

She created her own sexual education curriculum, aimed at teenage males, which the health department in Georgia, her home state, is working to put into every high school and some middle schools.

"What I've experienced is about nine out of 10 teenagers that I talk to don't talk about sex with their parents," Shetter said. "And if they do, it's a one-time conversation and they get sweaty palms and run up to their rooms. …These teens get involved in sex before the adults in their lives even realize."

-By Lauren Dake (Medill News Service)
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