North Carolina’s Wise Guys Program
By Rick Brown
Wise Guys Director
Family Life Council
Traditionally, family planning programs have focused on teen girls and women. Increasingly, professionals recognize the role that males can play in reducing unintended pregnancy and the spread of STIs, and in fostering healthy, respectful relationships. To address that need, the Family Life Council of Greensboro, North Carolina created the Wise Guys® program in 1990.
The heart of Wise Guys is the multi-session curriculum. It is delivered when a staff educator meets with a group of teen males, generally for 12 sessions, and takes them through the topics of that curriculum. They include: masculinity, communication, relationships, dating violence, fatherhood, values, decision-making, sexuality, STIs, contraception and abstinence. The format is interactive and participatory. During the 2007/08 program year, over 1,100 Guilford County teen males from school and community sites attended Wise Guys classes.
From the program for teen males, other components have grown. Wise Guys: the Next Level has the same basic goals as the series for teens, but serves adult men ages 18 – 29 in settings ranging from prisons to college campuses. Jovenes Sabios serves Hispanic males, with an approach designed to address the issues of this population. Sexplanations programs help parents, caregivers and educators have healthy communication with teens about sexuality and relationships.
Wise Guys has become a resource for teen males nationally. A thorough curriculum, growing numbers served, and positive evaluation data brought the program to the attention of national organizations, which has led professionals from communities nationwide to obtain training on initiating the program. The program has been implemented successfully in diverse communities, serving a variety of ethnicities and populations. Currently, over 400 communities in 40 states have been trained in program replication.
This year, a final report was released on an intensive Wise Guys evaluation project, covering two school years and over 500 participants and randomly chosen control students, conducted by the Department of Public Health Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In all measured categories of knowledge, attitude, and behavior, program students achieved and maintained significantly higher results than controls at six month follow-up.
Honors and recognitions for the program include an Honoree Award from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (2001), the Wellness Award from the Moses Cone~Wesley Long Community Health Foundation (2004, 2008), and the Award for Education from the Office of Family Planning (2007).
Professionals, parents and youth are realizing the power of treating teen males as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. As that understanding continues to grow, Wise Guys too will continue to meet a need as a resource for helping adolescent males grow into healthy, responsible men.
To learn more about Wise Guys®, visit http://www.wiseguysnc.org/.