Today’s parents have a lot on their plates. The modern family schedule usually includes more than just getting kids to school or daycare on time. Helping with homework, running the household, and juggling their own jobs takes up plenty of time and energy. Thinking about their child’s bodily autonomy and future sexual health may not be top of mind, especially for parents of young children. And, let’s be honest, no parent really wants to think of their teenager in terms of their sexuality. But current scientific research shows that as young as pre-school age, teaching children the correct names for body parts, how to say ‘no ’to unwanted touch, how to define personal boundaries, and how to recognize their own internal feelings and signals in dangerous situations, is key to preventing pregnancies, abuse and STIs among our youth. Studies also indicate that through the middle school years, kids would prefer to rely on their parents/caregivers to provide information about their changing bodies and navigating adolescence. With so much questionable and advanced content on the internet, Growing Up Knowing believes informed, age-appropriate sexual health information is necessary for a child’s general health and well-being.

Growing Up Knowing is a Jackson based nonprofit that works with children and their parents/caregivers to help families understand the language of denial and consent, empowering youth to have agency over their own bodies. This is done through the implementation of three signature programs: My Body My Boundaries for Early Childhood, My Body My Boundaries for Elementary students, and The ‘Tween Talk: Comprehensive Sex Education for Middle School students. Each program is taught by a trained Facilitator, targeting respective age groups. Parents and caregivers are included to educate the whole family. With the tools they learn for self-advocacy and the information shared about sexual and reproductive processes, parents help their children avoid risky behavior and make better, safer choices.

Board Chair Inglish DeVoss has this to say: “The best investment for a healthy and prosperous future for all Mississippians is educating and protecting our youth. Young people need facts and guidance to make informed, safe and healthy choices and to prevent harm. With few similar programs in our state, Growing Up Knowing offers comfortable, medically accurate programming that teaches body boundaries and the fundamentals of anatomy and reproduction. Caregivers accompany children to facilitator led programs, in age-appropriate groups, allowing both generations to feel invested, secure and better equipped with the skills to discuss related topics in their own homes. Children and teens meet in their own community centers, schools and churches. Growing Up Knowing is distinguished in its approach, strategic in the

betterment of our youth and contributes to Mississippi’s improved long term socioeconomic and health markers.”

According to recent statistics available from the CDC (2019), Mississippi had the second highest rate of teen birth in the country. 29.1 births per 1,000. The national average that year was 16.7. Research continues to show that only 51% of teen moms finish high school. Last year the World Population Review noted Mississippi has the highest rate of gonorrhea in the United States, and the third highest rates for chlamydia and syphilis. During the last two years, Jackson, MS, ranked highest in the nation for STIs. In 2021, Mississippi ranked 50th in overall child well-being, according to the Kids Count Data Book, an annual survey based on 16 indicators across four categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

Founded in 2011 as The Mississippi Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Growing Up Knowing (GUK) works with youth and their parents/caregivers across the state. While based in Jackson, GUK has dedicated programming in vulnerable Lauderdale County and the Mississippi Delta. GUK also partners with the Mississippi Freedom Projects across the state for programming opportunities and to identify and train facilitators. Our goal is to have dedicated programming in every Mississippi county. Until then, virtual programming remains an option for communities outside our service area.

Our programs are provided free of charge through community partners such as Boys & Girls Clubs of MS, Operation Shoestring, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Institute for Southern Jewish Life, MS Families for Kids, Mississippi Freedom Projects, as well as school parent-associations and faith-based organizations across Mississippi. Wherever families gather, we are there. Programs are interactive, encouraging both kids and adults to participate. Data is collected for each program with pre and post surveys, assimilated and reviewed.

Growing Up Knowing aims to educate the whole family, providing factual, evidence- based information and tools for communication that can be used at home. Leading teen pregnancy prevention research endorses teaching personal safety and sexual education early and using evidenced-based curricula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that as children age, parents or caregivers create an environment at home in which sexual topics can be discussed comfortably. Bybuilding a child’s support network and engaging parent and caregivers in the education process, we prepare youth to make responsible choices to build better futures for themselves and our communities.

For more information, including participant testimonials and funding options, visit If you or your organization would like to host a program, please contact or call 601-589-0275.