Planned Parenthood is expanding its efforts in Park City, and many parents are pleased with the services they provide.

Karrie Galloway, the President and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, says the organization is forming one of its community Leadership Councils in the Park City area, focusing especially on education efforts in schools.

"In the past year, we have gotten a couple of very dedicated people to make sure that reproductive justice has a place in Park City," Galloway said. "The People's Health Clinic and the county Health Department have been long-time supporters."

A concerning statistic, Galloway mentioned, is the recent spike in teen pregnancies in the Park City School District. Last year there were nine teen pregnancies, an increase from what Galloway says is usually "three or four." She pointed to this fact in analyzing Planned Parenthood's education efforts.

"Is the sexuality awareness and education in this community what parents want?" Galloway said. "In Utah, we let adults who have power talk about sexuality of young people in the abstract, but we don't really deal with the reality of what's happening to those young people."

Planned Parenthood conducts education programs in local schools, from maturation classes in 5th and 6th grades to teen programs centering on topics such as responsible decision-making, birth control and family planning.

Kathy Schlein, a Park City resident, has a son and a daughter who are both entering their junior year at Rowland Hall. Both of them, she says, have benefited from Planned Parenthood's education and services.

"They're really well-informed. They're going to make good judgment calls and I feel really good about it," Schlein said. "Planned Parenthood has done a phenomenal job in making the kids feel that they're empowered with the decisions in their lives."

Darcy Amiel, also of Park City, has children who attend Rowland Hall as well. She says she has a current sixth grader who has participated in Planned Parenthood's maturation class before.

"They split them up by gender I think it's very well done. I've been present at the classes and they're very age-appropriate," Amiel said. "The kids can ask questions and they lead them into a puberty discussion."

Galloway says that, although the core of a child's sex education and values are learned at home, she knows not all parents feel comfortable about talking to their kids about sex. Having someone with professional training to talk to kids is crucial, she says.

"If we're not having open conversations with teens, it's hard for them to make decisions," Galloway said. "We need to talk about the good things about sex as well as the repercussions. When we shut down the conversation, everyone loses."

Amiel said she is very supportive of teens having as much information as possible about safe sex and birth control during those years when "we know they're going to experiment."

"Education and knowledge are power," Amiel said. "I have always educated my kids about the importance of being safe. I love the idea that Planned Parenthood would come to schools and arm these kids with information like that."

Schlein agreed and added that teaching sex education in the classroom "takes some of the squirminess out of it."

"No one regrets educating their kids to make really solid, lifelong decisions for themselves," Schlein said.

Planned Parenthood's Leadership Council will soon start fundraising and awareness events in the Park City area, and possibilities include a women's bike ride or a comedy night.

For more information on Planned Parenthood's efforts in Utah, visit plannedparenthood.org/utah.