P3 COMMUNITY VOICES
Her smile is infectious and immediately disarming. Anyone who meets Roxeann Cobb recognizes very quickly that they are in the presence of someone very special. Roxeann’s works for the Wilkes County Family Connections, as a Parent Educator with Project Jump Start. Jump Start is an early intervention program that teaches parents how to be their baby’s first teacher. I met Roxeann because she’s also a teen pregnancy prevention facilitator with the Continued Change Initiative. Continued Change is the name of The Augusta Partnership for Children (APC) led regional teen pregnancy prevention initiative funded by the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH). The Wilkes County Family Connections is one of APC’s regional partners and served as Roxeann’s entre into the world of TPP facilitation. Who knew she would be so good at it?
I asked Roxeann what TPP intervention(s) was she trained to implement and where was she implementing? She responded by saying that she was trained to implement both Making Proud Choices and Making A Difference (MAD) but because they were implementing in the local Middle School, she spent most of her time facilitating MAD. Wilkes County is like many rural counties in Georgia; very conservative with community officials largely unwilling to take risks. This frustrates Roxeann, because as she puts it; “there’s nothing for kids to do around here.” In many rural counties throughout Georgia, youth’s time and minds are left largely unoccupied, with lots of free time to explore risky behaviors.
Roxeann’s story is one of overcoming the odds and giving back. She is a self-professed “Bad Girl” who got into “a lot of trouble” when she was growing up. She admitted that she had a bad reputation and was known as “a fighter.” She also admits that this may have been a barrier when she first began recruiting for their TPP program. “Many people had a hard time seeing me this way…I was bad”, she shares. When launching their regional TPP project in Wilkes County Roxeann put up posters and fliers “everywhere”. She posted program information and related statistical information on social media and everywhere she thought kids were, but with limited success. Then the Wilkes County School System gave her a chance, and this was the game changer. Instant credibility and instance access to youth came with the new relationship and she hasn’t looked back since. The early days, when launching the program were some of the most challenging times. I asked Roxeann, what was the most rewarding part of her work. Her response was interesting and heartfelt; “…being able to be someone other than Roxeann.” Needless to say, her response took me by surprise. So, I asked, “what do you mean”? Then another interesting (yet heartfelt) response; she replies; “ When they [people in the community] see me doing this work, they see me as someone other than Roxeann the trouble maker.” I realized very quickly that this is very important to her. As strong as she appears, she (like so many of us) wants to feel connected, valued and respected.
I then asked Roxeanne; “What do you say to people who say that the teen pregnancy rates have dropped significantly locally and nationally, so teen pregnancy is really no longer an issue.” She pauses for a brief moment then states…” I would tell them to look at the stats for our county. Kids use it [sex]as recreation. There’s nothing for young people to do.” Point taken Roxeann!
When asked if she had any parting words for TPP practitioners in the Community of Practice (CoP) she took a short pause…and then said this:
“If you can just help one person, you have done your job. You’re not going to help them all. It [this work] can upset you. Don’t get upset when you think they’re [youth] not listening. They are listening. Just do your job and you will get your reward at the end. I’ve taught students and run into their parents in the grocery store and they thank me.”
We thank-you Roxeann for all you do for youth in Georgia!
This interview was conducted for the P3 Community of Practice (CoP) by Jevon Gibson, Senior Consultant with Community Health Solutions (CHS) and Director of the Center for Adolescent Male Development (CAMD).