SAN ANTONIO – Approximately 70 children from San Antonio Boys & Girls Clubs are learning to achieve a future without adding to Bexar County's high teen pregnancy rate through Jessica's Project.
In its fourth year, the project gives vocational nursing and science students a chance to interact with middle school students looking toward college.
This year's effort involves St. Philip's College's Simulation Center mannequins, which are computerized baby dolls, to learn about sickness and health care.
Ricardo Lopez, coordinator of the simulation program, said the little robots help tell the story of child abuse in relation to newborn babies in a way that no other lesson can. He shows how the "shaken baby" mannequin reacts to violent shaking by lighting up sections of the baby's brain where the damage occurs.
"It illustrates how the brain can get injured and (in) what areas, and how that impacts the child throughout its development and its life," he said. "The students had a lot of questions about that today."
The robots illustrated fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as drug effects in utero.
It's part of the project's attempt to educate young people about the pitfalls of teen pregnancy and the repercussions of poor choices.
"I was just shocked to see that normal parents might actually drink while they have a baby and that it might actually happen," said Serena Pruitt, a ninth-grader who aspires to become a veterinarian.
The other lesson was for students to stay focused on schooling so they can succeed.
"You've got to work hard and get good grades in your school, focus on that," said Kevin Garay, an eighth-grader hoping to be a marine biologist. He said the lessons taught at St. Philip's will stay with him.