Children's Center
   In Memoriam



                                        Kelly Lemons photo
Preparing for the Nobody's Fool conference at the Waco Convention Center are Brett Farnum (from left), Frankie Bashioun,
Emily Smallwood, Dakwaun Hampton, Jessica Underwood, and Pat Stone.

July 2002
Nobody's Fool focuses on relationships

By Marla Pierson Lester


The phrase jumped out at Pam Smallwood from a publication on teen pregnancy in the 1980s. It showed a young woman taking charge of her relationships and saying, “I ain’t going to be nobody’s fool.”

Smallwood, then education director of Planned Parenthood of Central Texas, tagged that name — Nobody’s Fool — to a half-day conference on puberty, dating and relationship issues.

Now, 13 years later, Nobody’s Fool has served more than 5,000 young people and won national awards. The name is copyrighted. There is a training manual and a training event each year in conjunction with the conference, scheduled this year for July 24.

“All of this has local origins,” said Smallwood, who now serves as CEO of the agency. “It truly is our baby.”

The initial conference, an event open only to girls, was in 1989.

“We thought maybe 20 girls would come to this thing, and 100 showed up,” she said. “It was very successful, and it was obvious they were hungry for information.”

The only complaints were that boys and younger children weren’t in cl uded. “We had parents saying, ‘My fifth grader needs this information,’” Smallwood said.

In 1990, which marked the first true year of Nobody’s Fool as it is today, organizers hoped for a couple hundred kids. They got between 500 and 600, and attendance has remained strong. The event is for youth entering grades five through nine.

“Our goal has always been to try to reach kids before they start dating,” Smallwood said. Although younger kids already may be dating, the serious romantic relationships tend to be later in high school, she said.

With lessons on everything from sexually transmitted diseases to the hallmarks of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the half-day conference is meant to open a conversation that ideally the youngsters will continue at home.

“We hope that they walk away with a sense that relationships and sexuality is a topic that’s important, that’s talkable,” said Pat Stone, Planned Parenthood's education director. “For some kids, that’s real supportive of what’s at home. For some kids, that’s a breath of fresh air.”

Sessions are split by age and gender, with approaches geared to students' grade levels.

“Fifth-grade girls are real curious about their bodies and what’s happening to them,” Stone said.

While personal safety information for older girls may focus on date rape, sessions for younger girls will emphasize appropriate and inappropriate touch.

“Sometimes they think the bad guys are going to carry guns and be really creepy,” Stone said. Conference teachers will stress that inappropriate behavior can come even from a seemingly nice adult.

Ninth-grade girls, on the other hand, want to talk about healthy relationships, she said. So they cover behaviors to watch out for in dating, such as the boyfriend who insists his girlfriend carry a beeper everywhere so he can reach her at all times.

“If they don’t hear that as a potential red flag, they may think, ‘Cute, he wants to keep up with me,’ ” Stone said. “What we hope to do is give them some guidelines of what does make a healthy relationship and give them some red flags.”

Classes also are split by gender, which Smallwood says is mostly a matter of convenience.

“We believe boys and girls need to hear each other on this,” she said. “We have to split the kids up somehow and that’s just an easy way to do this.”

The content is updated every year, but the topics remain the same. “We try to make every cl assroom more interactive every year,” Stone said. “We can present some pretty serious issues, but if we can do it in an interactive, fun method, the kids react to it. They remember it.”

Each room has a question box in which students can submit any question they have. Those are answered later in the session.

What participants learn at the conference is not all they need to know. Stone stresses that in three hours, the conversation about sexuality has just begun. Each participant will receive a packet of resources that Stone says can provide a framework for further conversations at home.

Many participants return year after year, and new material is presented at each grade level.

"It’s fun," Stone said. "It really does have a fun atmosphere.”

Many of the 100 volunteers needed to put on the conference come year after year, as well. Two teachers who are trained health educators take a lead role in each cl assroom, and then volunteers fill in the gaps.

Smallwood said the support of local agencies and businesses also has played an important role in the success of Nobody's Fool over the years.

“I think that adds to its success. When parents look at the brochure and they see 'X’ number of local businesses are donating money, agencies (are involved) — that lends a lot of credibility to a subject a lot of parents find very uncomfortable,” she said.


WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 24

WHERE: Waco Convention Center

ADMISSION: Registration costs $5. Transportation is available, as are a limited number of scholarships. Preregistration is suggested.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 759-5777, Ext. 230.

Reproduced with permission of Waco Today, a product of the Waco Tribune-Herald, Copyright 2002

Lake Shore Baptist Church
5801 Bishop Drive
Waco, Texas 76710

Tel.: (254) 772-2910
Fax: (254) 772-2914


Copyright 2002, Lake Shore Baptist Church, All Rights Reserved