TOP Helps Miami Schools Create Systems-Level Change

Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast (PPSFTC) uses the Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. TOP is offered to 500 teens within Miami-Dade School District, including virtually the entire freshmen class at Miami Northwestern Senior High School.

In addition to helping students protect their health, the program has sparked a powerful sense of leadership within the student body and contributed to an overall change in the school’s performance.

TOP curriculum helps students process the violent encounters they witness within the community – gun violence, domestic abuse and sex and human trafficking. TOP facilitators use the reflection portion of each class to explore what students would like to change about each situation. The process has shown students that their voice is critical to making a change.

“Through TOP, we’ve helped them recognize that their school is their community and the resources here can change their trajectory. When we combine those things, we can have an even greater impact on the community at-large,” said Jenevie Clark, director of TOP on behalf of PPSFTC.

In fact, after the first year implementing the program, several 9th graders heading into 10th grade vocalized a desire to make a dramatic change to their school’s TOP program. They proactively asked how they could take on a TOP leadership role during their remaining high school years. But first, they had to participate in specialized TOP training.

“The fact that these students dedicated their time outside of school to learn how to serve as Ambassadors for other students is a huge testament to their growth within the program,” said Clark. “Our Ambassadors now meet with our TOP facilitators once each month and chaperone community service outings. The school calls on our TOP Ambassadors to guide parents during open houses and other special events – which in turn boosts the pride of everyone who walks through the school’s doors.”

“The entire organization has made a concerted effort to create a culture of high expectations and high performance within our school, and TOP has impacted each one of these areas,” added Clark. “As teachers, students, parents and community members, we’re all unified in generating greater outcomes for our youth. We are proud to be part of this mix – working together with the teachers to continue opening the minds of students, and helpings them prepare for a brighter future.”

According to Clark, the school was given an “A-grade” rating from the Miami-Dade Public School System in 2013, which is the highest rating since 2009.