06/18/09 — Abstinence essay winners named

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Abstinence essay winners named

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 18, 2009 1:46 PM

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From left, Emily Bell, health education specialist with the Wayne County Health Department, congratulates abstinence essay contest winners Daniel Nelson, first place, Jade Dansler, second, and Kristen Rae Walters, third.

As any good musician knows, timing is everything.

The same holds true for the decision for teens to have sex, said the winning entry in this year's abstinence essay contest sponsored by the Wayne County Health Department.

Daniel Nelson, a rising junior at Nelson Christian Academy -- a homeschool -- likened having sex at too young of an age to playing a song at the wrong tempo.

"Ignoring timing in sexual behavior can produce far more damaging effects in the lives of teens," he read from his essay Wednesday during the Board of Health meeting.

"As a teenage boy, I'm keenly aware of the constant bombardment of sexual messages that permeate our society. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, walk down the aisles in Wal-Mart and sex is there. ... And this is the environment we teens try to survive in. So is it any wonder that many of us get distracted and end up making the wrong decisions? "

Abstinence may not be the popular answer among many young people, said the 16-year-old. But it's "a whole lot cooler" than any STD or life being derailed by an unplanned pregnancy.

Jade Dansler, a rising junior at Wayne School of Engineering, depicted her own struggle against the backdrop of a dinner out with her mother and grandmother. In her second-place-winning essay, she wrote about sending a text informing her mother of the decision to have sex.

"At 15, I had decided that remaining a virgin had grown to be a burden in my life," she wrote.

Her mother suggested they discuss it later at home. But by the end of the meal, Jade had already internalized the issue at length.

"My mom wanted me to explain why I wanted to, but what continued to enter my mind is why I shouldn't," she said, running down the list of pros and cons -- possible pregnancy, ruining her chances to one day pursue her education at Harvard, interfering with her ability to attend school dances and enjoy her teen years.

"I want to continue to come first!" she wrote, the need to succumb to peer pressure gradually diminishing. "My friends pick on me about being a virgin, but I don't care anymore. God, my life, my family, my future, my dreams and my goals matter the most to me. "

Abstinence is not only the best choice for teens, but a freeing one, wrote the third-place essayist, Kristen Rae Walters, 15, a junior at Dove Academy home-school.

"It offers you so much freedom -- freedom of guilt that would be caused by knowing your choice adversely affected yourself, your partner and possibly a child, freedom in knowing that you won't have health problems or diseases that prevent you from living out your dreams, freedom of pursuing your educational and career goals rather than settling for what you can get right now, freedom to spend time with friends, learning lessons and making memories that will last a lifetime," she wrote. "All these experiences will allow you to grow into the mature adult you will need to be in order to handle (an) intimate relationship, and be a responsible parent with a solid spiritual foundation."

This is the seventh year for the abstinence essay contest, open to public, private and home-schooled teens in grades 9-12, said Emily Bell, public health education specialist in the Health Department's adolescent health program.

Sixty-one entries came in this year from across the county, with the top three being posted on the Web site, www.wayneteens.com.

Prizes for the winning submissions included a $1,000 scholarship and $200 gift card for first place; $500 scholarship and $100 gift card for second; and $300 scholarship and $50 gift card for the third place.

In addition to the potential scholarship money, the winners shared one basic reason for entering the competition -- the opportunity to share their views.

"I was tired of not being able to express myself to my friends," added Jade, who noted that despite occasional teasing, she has come to believe that "being a virgin is cool."