03/07/10 — Youth told to choose abstinence

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Youth told to choose abstinence

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 7, 2010 1:50 AM

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Members of A Drummer's World Drum Line's intermediate team perform a routine at the Rose Banquet at Mount Olive College.

"You are worth waiting for" was the message heard over and over by youths attending the 2010 Rose Banquet Wednesday as they were urged to choose abstinence over sex.

Sponsored by the Wayne Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention the annual abstinence-based banquet at Mount Olive College not only gave youths a chance for a spaghetti meal, it also sought to teach them why abstinence is always the right choice.

Vandora Yelverton, health educator with WATCH, began by defining what abstinence is: Choosing not to have any type of sexual contact for now.

Ms. Yelverton told the youths that "it's never too late to decide not to have sex, even if you already have."

Not being sexually active prevents an unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, an unwanted emotional bond and damage to your reputation, Ms. Yelverton said.

She noted that more than 19,000 girls in North Carolina ages 15 through 19 became pregnant in 2008. And she said that 67 percent of teen mothers don't get their high school diploma.

"Teen parents have a greater tendency to become abusive parents due to the demands of a baby and their lack of parenting skills," Ms. Yelverton said.

In addition, babies born to teen moms are at a higher risk of low birth weight, which can cause many different complications.

Teen moms themselves are at greater risk of obesity and high blood pressure than women who didn't have children in their teens.

One of the greatest risks of being a sexually active teenager, though, is getting an STD.

Ms. Yelverton said that 9 million teens get an STD every year, an alarmingly high number.

And in Wayne County, the rate of chlamydia in teens is a lot higher than the state average.

Some STDs are incurable and last a lifetime, according to Ms. Yelverton. They can cause pain, tubal pregnancy, cancer, sterility and even death.

Common STDs are syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts and HIV/AIDS. And genital warts, genital herpes and HIV/AIDS are viruses that can't be cured, Ms. Yelverton. Anyone infected one of them will have it the rest of his or her life.

Ms. Yelverton also talked about the emotional issues that early sexual activity can cause.

"When you have sex with a person, you are permanently linked to that person," she said. "Some of the emotional consequences are worry, fear of future relationships, impaired personal development, regret, guilt, low self-esteem and depression.

"When you give yourself away, that person has taken a part of you that you cannot ever get back."

Ms. Yelverton stressed to the students that they can be "in love" without having sex.

"Adolescence can be a difficult time for many teens," she said. "Sexual activity may become a much larger problem for you."

To help them become "pressure proofed," Ms. Yelverton offered this advice. "Set it -- establish boundaries. Say it -- when you say something, you stand on it. Show it -- be assertive and mean what you're saying with your actions."

Ms. Yelverton said that just because everyone says they are having sex doesn't make it true.

In fact, she said that surveys show that 40 percent of high school age students are not sexually active.

"There's strength in numbers," she said. "Know that when you've chosen not to be sexually active, you've made the right choice and you're not alone."

To be abstinent, youths can stick to their decision, avoid giving mixed signals, communicate with their partner and avoid compromising situations.

"You are in control of your sexuality and your life," Ms. Yelverton said. "Saying no to sex now is saying yes to your future. You are worth waiting for."

Entertainment for the banquet was provided by saxophonist Garrett Whipkey, a senior at Hobbton High School, and members of A Drummer's World Drum Line's intermediate team, directed by Alando Mitchell.

Wayne County 4-H'ers performed the abstinence-based skit, "The Rose."

The second-place winner in the Wayne County Health Department's abstinence essay contest, Jade Dansler of the Wayne School of Engineering, read her essay.

Wrapping up the event, Marisa Linton, 4-H TEACH Club, explained about pledge cards each youth received and encouraged them to sign it, pledging to abstain from sex until marriage.