HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - A dozen students in the school system became pregnant this past school year - according to the superintendent, several of them, eleven and twelve year old students who are in middle school.
Natashia Formley knows one of those middle schoolers who are now pregnant. She also knows what it's like to be a teen mom.
"I wasn't ready when I had my daughter I wasn't ready financially. I wasn't ready in just so many different ways," said Natashia Formley who became pregnant at 19.
Natashia, like many others in Hopewell are noticing a trend.
"I see kids - kids walking around with the baby on the hips and pushing strollers like it's a cool, hip thing to do and it's not," she said.
We spoke with several middle school students off-camera who say having a baby is like making a fashion statement. Right now, Hopewell is ranked 11th in the state for teen pregnancy.
"We know of three cases this year where the young ladies got pregnant on purpose," said Superintendent Dr Winston Odom.
Last year 12 students in the school system became pregnant.
"That's far too many and many of these cases occurred at the middle school level," said Dr. Odom.
Now, there is a new initiative to help stomp out the problem. It's a collaborative effort between the health department and the school system.
"The campaign is to positively encourage the young women and men in Hopewell schools to postpone pregnancy," Health Educator Tara Dickerson said.
Next month these images will be posted on billboards throughout the city. There will also be radio announcements and additional health educators who will host special classes starting when students return from summer break.
"We can no longer sit on these issues and watch them occur in front of us. We've got to be proactive," Dr. Odom said.
School leaders say they're optimistic the program will make a difference. The superintendent of schools says this is just one step in fighting the problem - he's asking all parents to get involved.