Last week, I had the honor of attending the 31st Annual Central Valley Teen Parent Conference hosted by Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in downtown Fresno. The goal of this regional conference is to provide the necessary resources such as financial planning, parent practices, and discipline workshops to teen parents.

During my drive to the event, I reminisced about the countless of similar events I had encountered through my teenage years, but had never really paid attention to. Arriving at the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a spectator surrounded by teen parents.

I was greeted by Dr. Michele Cantwell-Copher, the administrator of the event. I had many questions about the conference, and she advised me to attend the three 1-hour long informational breakout sessions consisting of 24 different workshops.

After getting a cup of Joe (breakfast and coffee were generously provided), I went into my first workshop – Stepping Up to Fatherhood.  This workshop caught my attention because I have a 3year old godson and I wanted to gain insight from a seasoned father. The workshop attendees consisted of 6 males, 2 female chaperones and Dr. Mario Martinez from UCSF Fresno Family and Community Medicine (host). Dr. Martinez began the workshop by introducing himself and briefly discussing his three children. Dr. Martinez then led a PowerPoint presentation full of quotes and stories related to fatherhood. It was a calm, informative and very intimate environment.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole event — but on my way out, I was able to stop by the Health and Career Fair in the lobby. This Fair highlights local programs that offer a variety of services to young parents and their children.

Attending this event greatly expanded my knowledge about the issues facing teen parents. Any and all questions I had were eagerly received and answered in full. It was amazing to see that more than 500 teenagers, parents and chaperones participated in the event.

I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the professional staff that volunteered their time to help out at the event, and who also provide vital support and services to teen parents and their families.

The Central Valley has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. Local government and nonprofits are working to reduce teen pregnancy rates because studies show that pregnant teens and teen parents are less likely to finish high school and pursue higher education. This dramatically impacts their future earning potentian and limits opportunities for their children. Fortunately, there are resources to help. You can learn more: https://www.fcoe.org/departments/early-care-education/teen-parent-support-program