06/20/10 — Teens talk about abstinence in Health Department essay contest

View Archive

Teens talk about abstinence in Health Department essay contest

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 20, 2010 1:50 AM

The Health Department's annual abstinence essay contest may have drawn fewer submissions this year, but the message is still getting out there, said Carolyn King, health education supervisor.

"I do get the opportunity to meet students who talk to me about abstinence," she said. "Although the statistics are that 60 percent of teens are sexually active, 40 percent are not. They may not participate in the abstinence essay contest, but we know that they have still got the message."

The essay contest was introduced seven years ago, with area high school students invited to write down their thoughts on why abstinence is the best choice to prevent pregnancy.

Through the years, the contest has elicited an array of responses -- from teens already practicing abstinence to a teen mother and a student who was the product of a teen pregnancy.

In the early stages of the competition, awards included fast food certificates and mall gift cards. Later, donations from area civic groups and the community allowed the Health Department to provide scholarship money.

Then in 2007, the 11-member Board of Health committed to returning their $15 a month stipend to support the scholarship fund.

Winners of this year's contest were announced at Wednesday's board meeting.

Ashley Howell, a recent graduate and salutatorian at Charles B. Aycock High School, had the first-place entry. She received a $1,000 scholarship and $200 gift card.

Second place went to Marisa Linton, a home-schooled rising senior. She received a $500 scholarship and $100 gift card.

Nathaniel Bridgers, a rising sophomore at Eastern Wayne High School, was third-place winner. His award was a $300 scholarship and $50 gift card.

Ms. Howell, who will attend N.C. State University in the fall, read a portion of her winning essay to the board.

She gave an illustration of a couple, preparing for marriage, the young man concerned about confessing his past sexual history. For teenagers, she wrote, it's easy to fall victim to emotions, hormones and the encouragement of pop culture, neglecting to perceive the larger picture.

"As youth, we are the sailboat on the Atlantic Ocean, vulnerable and unaware of the greatness of life," she wrote. "Deceived by the deep appearance of the water, teenagers often run recklessly aground and make choices based on their own intuition."

Looking toward the future, she asked, with advancements in medication able to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases would abstinence still be the way to go?

"Absolutely. No technology, no drug, no advanced treatment will ever be capable of eradicating the emotional depravity connected to premarital sex. ... Choosing abstinence is not about statistics," she wrote. "Abstinence is about respect -- respect for one's self, respect for one's interest and respect for one's future spouse."

All three essays will be posted on the Health Department website, at www.waynegov.com. The winning essay will be printed on Thursday's health pages in the News-Argus.