IF YOU GO
The Mock Wedding at the Teen Summit will be June 22, 4 p.m. at the Rockdale Medical Center East Tower. Free and all are invited to attend this ceremony honoring and celebrating marriage.
Wedding bells are ringing again as the nonprofit group formerly known as the MATURE project is continuing bigger and better than ever as More Than Conquerors, Inc.
The group, which was facing the end of one federal grant in 2011, received a new infusion of federal grant funding in 2012 which enabled it to expand its services and add case workers to its staff.
It also moved and expanded its office to a location on Milstead Road, behind the Rockdale Medical Center.
MTCI staff and board members recently held an open house to showcase the myriad of programs all directed at keeping teens on a pathway for success that includes preventing teen pregnancy and bad relationship choices, high school graduation, college, marriage and family.
Even the center’s décor emphasizes the value of family and marriage.
According to statistics handed out by MTCI, in 2009, births to unwed teen mothers accounted for 89.7 percent of births in Rockdale, 86.8 percent in Newton, and 93.3 percent in DeKalb.
During one tour, executive director Viola January proudly showcased cards that teens had made on the wall profiling married couples in the community. This puts teens in contact with real life couples in healthy relationships, said January.
“Teens are still wanting to be married after they graduate high school. But if they don’t have examples now, they won’t be able to make choices now in their relationships. When they get ready for long-term committed relationships, they’ll be able to make different choices,” January said.
Though the name of the group might have changed over the years and the services expanded, the mission remains focused on helping youths make healthy relationship and life choices.
Director of programs Philippia Faust, who used to work as a nurse at Rockdale Medical, recalled the group’s beginnings more than a decade ago of three volunteers working with seven students.
In her work going out to schools teaching health classes, she learned of grants available for groups working with youth and abstinence programs. The group applied and received a $1,500 grant for teen abstinence and nutrition for pregnant teens in DeKalb. In 2003, the group received a $178,000, three-year federal grant for addressing teen abstinence in Rockdale County. In 2006, they received a $445,000 yearly federal grant for five years to address healthy relationships and marriage, or the MATURE Project.
In 2010, they were awarded another grant, $652,000 a year for five years, for the CHAMPS (Collegiate Health Awareness Messages Protecting Students) project in connection with Morris Brown College to prevent teen pregnancy.
The MATURE Project became the MATURE Plus Project in 2012 with a $798,000 annual grant for three years.
The MATURE Plus project added case workers on top of educators who taught classes on healthy family and relationship choices.
The MATURE Plus project serves students in Rockdale, Newton, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
Today, More Than Conquerors, Inc. has 37 employees, an overall budget of $2 million a year and serves 3,000 students a year.
MTCI reaches youths wherever they might be, whether it’s youth groups, clubs or in school.
MTCI’s educators teach health and family and consumer science classes in all three Rockdale high schools, Alcovy High School in Newton, two schools in Gwinnett, and two schools in Fulton.
“We compliment what is already in the school system and we can bring in certified educators to roll out the curricula,” January said.
In addition to case managers, MTCI also has a job and career specialist, and a Peersuader program, which educates and employs teens to teach the classes to other teens.
This June 22, MTCI will hold its annual Teen Summit and Mock Wedding, which had become synonymous with the MATURE Project.
The group, which is part of the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families, also received in kind donations of furniture from the Georgia Family Council and United Way.
For more information, go to mtciga.org.