AIM gets #036;1.4 million

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002

Features Editor

A rule of thumb is that one’s reach should always exceed one’s grasp.

When Terry Watkins applied for a grant that would extend the AIM (Abstinence in Motion) program another three years, she thought her reach far exceeded her grasp. However, those who awarded

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the Maternal Child Health Bureau grants must have realized the potential far-reaching effects of the "grasp."

On Thursday,

officials of Edge Regional Medical Center and the Charles Henderson Child Health Center officially announced the that the bureau, which is under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Resources,

has awarded $1.4-plus million to fund the AIM program over the next three years.

Mary Palo, of Hive Creative Group, said it was almost unheard of for a grant of this size to be awarded to a hospital in a small rural community.

Only 40 grants were awarded to the 250 applicants for the SPRANS grants. The grant

was awarded in support of the AIM project and was one of the largest and the only one awarded to a rural hospital, Palo said.

"This shows the creative energy and outstanding leadership here in Pike County and Terry is to be congratulated," Palo said.

Accolades also came from Bill Donohoo, interim CEO of ERMC; Jimmy Floyd, CHCHC administrator and Stephen Coleman, hospital chief of staff; who all voiced strong support of the AIM program and the leadership responsible for the far-reaching success in its four years of existence.

Watkins expressed her appreciation for what she called a "miracle."

She said the grant provides an opportunity to raise the bar and believe in kids "to do what is right."

When Watkins was a nurse supervisor at ERMC, she was witness to too many teenage girls, who were ill-equipped to be mothers, give birth.

"We prayed for them daily," she said of those who worked with her in the unit. "We knew there must be some way that we could make a difference. That prompted me to do something I didn’t think I could do."

Watkins learned to use a computer and she learned to write grants that would provide funds that would take the message of abstinence to young teens.

"I learned that teens learn best from those who look just like them," she said, explaining the teenagers are used in the program to take the message of abstinence to other teens. "When teens hear from a girl who is beautiful on the outside, the she has a permanent STD, they listen."

The message of the lifelong benefits of abstinence and the lifelong consequences of promiscuous behavior is being heard loud and clear by those involved in the AIM program. Just how effective is this message?

Watkins said until now, there have been few measures of the message of abstinence.

"We’ve had four years and now we’ll have three more to determine whether the message is getting across," she said. "Our vision is to see kids graduate with a diploma in their hands, not a baby."

The AIM program was initially funded by Title V for five years and time was running out on that grant.

The $1.4-plus million in new money will be distributed over three years and will allow the program to develop and expand.

The program creates an environment within communities that supports teens in their decision to remain abstinent until marriage and has targeted students in grades 7 and 9 in five counties.

Watkins said the program will now be extended to include grades 8 and 10 and an after-school program at the Troy Housing Authority.

The program will be moved from ERMC to a new location on South Brundidge Street. Four additional staff members will be hired and a marketing component, Hive Creative Group of Dothan, and a media component, WTVY-TV in Dothan will be added.