When Joi Stepp Wasill founded Decisions, Choices and Options 20 years ago, she had no idea that the program — which is focused on teaching students biblical guidelines for sexual purity — would grow like it has.
Started in 2002 at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee, the number of students reached through the program now exceeds 220,000.
Wasill taught high school for 33 years before retiring to start DCO, and she understood the challenges students face in their adolescent years.
DCO is changing lives — one student at a time.
‘Most rewarding thing I’ve ever done’
DCO serves in school classrooms and community organizations to offer sexual risk avoidance prevention programs, with a vision of partnering with schools, parents, communities and faith-based organizations to prepare and equip students to reach their goals and become strong leaders.
From DCO’s humble beginnings — in one school system — the organization now includes public and private schools as well as after-school programs, homeschools and community organizations in 13 counties in Tennessee and eight in Alabama.
Multiple agencies partner with DCO across the Southeast, and the organization equips students with the necessary skills to achieve optimal health and “successful life outcomes.”
“Working with DCO is the most challenging, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Wasill said.
Making good decisions
“We believe that all youth deserve access to sex education that prepares them to lead optimally healthy lives, free of the consequences resulting from risky adolescent choices, and inspired to pursue a future of success.”
The mission is accomplished by providing medically accurate, science-based sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education programs.
Students are faced with many decisions. DCO believes students will achieve success when they are given information about those decisions, the future impact of those decisions and the importance of valuing themselves and their future through positive choices.
SRA education is a primary prevention, multi-layered curricula communicating the risks and negative outcomes associated with sexual behavior, as well as with smoking, alcohol use and texting/impaired driving.
By avoiding those behaviors, students have the freedom and ability to pursue their dreams, goals and hopes for the future.
Finding the right volunteers
The four-tiered, direct instruction model is based on grade level and other considerations, and aligns with state curriculum requirements. All DCO educators are SRA specialists certified by ASCEND, the nation’s leading SRA training institute. DCO educators must be pro-life and certified.
“One of the challenges of DCO is finding people willing to spend hours each week teaching,” Wasill noted. “This is more than most volunteers are able to do. Plus, the drive from one school to another takes valuable time.
“In the 13 Tennessee counties served, 11 people cover all the 13 counties.”
Wasill frequently hears from students how DCO has impacted their lives and helped them pursue their goals.
Many parents dread the “sex conversations” with their children, so DCO has assembled a resource that covers such sensitive topics as social media, pornography, sexting and healthy vs. toxic relationships. Coming from a biblical perspective and taught by qualified and dynamic educators, the resource is available to parents.
“Life Choices: Parental Guidance Necessary” helps parents bring God’s design and plan for abundant life to their children. The goal is to show the depth and breadth of God’s design for gender, marriage, sex, family and life.
For more information about DCO visit decisionschoicesandoptions.com.