Officials raise stakes for teen essay contest
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 29, 2006 1:47 PM
Health officials, motivated by the messages conveyed in last year's abstinence contest essays, decided to send one of their own: They launched a college scholarship fund to reward winning entrants this spring.
Board of Health members donated their stipend to start the fund, said Carolyn King, Health Education Supervisor for the Health Department. That in turn prompted others to get on board.
The fourth annual abstinence essay contest features three awards. First place will be a $1,000 scholarship and a $200 gift certificate to Berkeley Mall; second place is a $500 scholarship and $100 gift certificate to the mall; and third place is a $300 scholarship and $50 gift certificate.
At the March 15 Board of Health meeting, Kristin Tri, health educator, expressed concern that the entire amount needed to fund the scholarship effort had not been raised. She said $1,610 of the needed $1,800 had been donated. She asked the board whether the amount of the prizes should be reduced to offset the difference.
Board member Dr. Michael Gooden said to keep the original amount.
"I guarantee there will be $1,800 by the time you need it if I have to write you a check," he said. Board members also agreed to solicit for further donations.
"We hope that next year we'll be able to get corporate sponsors" to continue the scholarship program, Mrs. King said.
The reason the contest was started initially was to encourage teens to consider abstinence as the best choice in the prevention of teenage pregnancy, she said, not to mention alleviating the chance of getting sexually transmitted diseases.
Holding such a contest and now providing the scholarship incentive can serve as a way to support those teens who choose to abstain from sex, Mrs. King said.
"We live in a world where if you watch television and you listen to the music, there's not a lot out there to support kids in that arena. I think as a health educator working in this field a long time, that's a thing we need to do, support our kids who are choosing abstinence as well as to challenge the kids to think about why this is a good choice," she said.
The women said they were excited about the added incentive. To suggest writing an essay to receive a scholarship is a win-win, they said.
"There's instant gratification and delayed gratification," Ms. Tri said, referring to the gift certificates awarded first, with the scholarship money presented once the student is enrolled in a college. And the scholarship money is not just for tuition; it can be applied where needed for college expenses, she said.
The Board of Health's stance prompted the effort, which deserves a commendation, Mrs. King said.
"We're grateful for the Board of Health that they had the vision to see the potential that this contest had. It helps us take it to the next level," she said.
Other contributors to the scholarship this year were the Wayne County Dental Society, Knights of Columbus, First Baptist Church Friendship Men's Sunday School Class, Wayne Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Wayne Women's Clinic, Berkeley Mall, and News-Argus.
Ms. Tri said that applications have been delivered to area high schools and churches, but information and forms are also available online at www.wayneteens.com.
The contest is open to ninth through 12th grade Wayne County students, public, private or home-schooled. Write no more than 1,500 words on why you think abstinence is the best choice for teens in the prevention of teenage pregnancy. Essays must be typed or handwritten, double-spaced on 8 1/2 by 11 paper with a 12-point font.
An entry form must accompany the essay. The only personal information to appear on the essay will be the last four digits of the Social Security number
Entry deadline is April 28. Mail or deliver to the attention of Abstinence Essay Contest, Wayne County Health Department -- Health Education Division, 301 N. Herman St., Box CC, Goldsboro, N.C. 27530.
Additional questions can be directed to Ms. Tri at 731-1236 or Rovonda Freeman at 731-1291.
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