01/25/06 — Scholarship will reward essay contest winners

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Scholarship will reward essay contest winners

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 25, 2006 1:46 PM

Scholarships rewarding abstinence among teens are being heralded by health educators, with hopes that the public will also support the effort.

The annual abstinence essay contest has been sponsored by the Health Department and the Wayne Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention for the past three years, targeting high school youths. Prizes have ranged from T-shirts to food coupons and mall gift certificates.

Last year, though, there was a shift in thinking about the contest's potential, said Carolyn King, health education supervisor for the Health Department.

"Every year we present the winning essay students to the Board of Health. This past May, we asked them to read their essays," she said. "They read them with such conviction or passion, there was either a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye when they finished.

"I think they were truly inspired by the folks that wrote the essays (and knew) we were on the right track with this essay contest."

The board discussed the need to do more to reward the participants and to back the annual contest. Board member Donna Edmundson suggested the idea of a scholarship fund.

"They wanted to encourage young folks to choose abstinence," Mrs. King said.

"We live in a culture that really does not support abstinence. There's not a lot of pats on the back, not a lot that encourages them to chose abstinence. As a way of doing that, they felt like we needed to increase the prize amount."

Collections for the scholarship fund have already begun. The health board was first to donate.

"There's no county monies being used to support this scholarship fund," Mrs. King said. "Our board of health has graciously agreed to donate their monthly stipend for one year to establish this fund."

Initially, $625 was pledged from the board and $175 came in from the Wayne Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. At last week's board of health meeting, board member Cynthia Wiley announced the Wayne County Dental Society donated $250 to the fund; board vice-chairman Tommy Gibson said his Sunday School class had collected $25.

Now it's the public's turn, Mrs. King said.

"We do need interested community groups to contribute. We would welcome it. We want this to be ongoing," she said.

"We're trying to encourage young folks to see the benefits of abstinence, preferably until marriage. Help young people think about that as a choice so they won't have to worry about STDs, broken hearts, emotional trauma, the list goes on. Remarkably, some of them came through loud and clear on paper, that 'we understand.'"

Health Director James Roosen said the goal is to ensure the effort's future. Letters have been sent out to civic and community groups, and individual contributions are also welcome "so we'll have that money in place and offer scholarships every year," he said.

Donations are tax-deductible, she said. For more information, call Mrs. King at 731-2290 or Ken Stern, administrative officer, at 731-1234.