When Jane Fonda founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential in 1994, she met with resistance.
“I’m a controversial person, right? Coming from Hollywood I was looked on with suspicion as an elitist. I move to Georgia (after marrying media mogul Ted Turner) and I work in adolescent sexuality — again controversial,” she says.
But she saw a need: The state had the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy, “not something anyone wants to boast about,” she says.
Working with churches, Alcoholics Anonymous and others in the community, she found acceptance.
“Hope is the best contraceptive,” she says. “Young people don’t see a future for themselves to motivate them to delay sexual activity or use contraception. Middle-class kids know it will compromise their future, jobs, marriage.”
GCAPP has expanded its mission to include health and fitness. She set up the Grady Teen Clinic and her foundation teaches how to buy healthy food on a budget, among other things. “In a lot of communities there’s no place to buy healthy food. The gas station or 7-Eleven is where they shop, there are no decent grocery stores.”
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Seeing GCAPP’s success, those that had been suspicious of Fonda in the past are now asking her for help.
“We’ve been successful,” Fonda says. “Repeat pregnancies are still high. We have a program called Second Chance Homes, where we take those kids into cosy, homelike residences and teach them to parent, education, job skills. It helps them avoid another baby right away.”
Having returned to Hollywood, Fonda depends on her team though she keeps in touch via visits and frequent phonecalls. “Our president, Kim Nolte, comes from the CDC,” she says. “I have a wonderful board.”