07/02/14 — Annual essay contest changes slightly

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Annual essay contest changes slightly

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 2, 2014 1:46 PM

The annual abstinence essay contest introduced a decade ago by the Health Department has been revamped, with this year's winners reading their winning submissions at an evening meeting of the Board of Health later this month.

The Health Department sponsored its first essay contest promoting teen abstinence in 2003, receiving more than 60 entries. Co-sponsored by the Wayne County Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, it targeted students in grades 9-12.

In 2005, Board of Health members voted to donate their monthly stipends to launch a scholarship fund for the winning entries in the contest. First, second and third-place finishers have received scholarships for $1,000, $500 and $250, respectively, plus gift certificates.

Traditionally, the top three essays have been read at a monthly board meeting, which is held during the day.

This year, the process was changed up -- expanding the topic range and moving the board meeting to the evening to allow teens to present their work publicly.

Now renamed the Teen Public Health Perspective Essay Contest, the scope was expanded to cover a broader set of public health topics and information, said Ava Crawford, public health education supervisor.

"The topics connect to some of the priority focus areas in our county's community health assessment," she said. "We wanted to use this as an opportunity to engage the teens and connect them to the needs in the county, encourage them to select a topic for their essay that they feel is an important issue that needs to be addressed, research the facts, and give their perspective on a possible solution and who could help to resolve it.

"The vision is to engage the teens and broaden their awareness, connect them to real issues in their home county, challenge them to get involved, recognize they have a voice and perspective to contribute, and lastly, expose teens to different resources and roles in public health."

Among the topic options, Ms. Crawford said, were chronic disease, mental health, abstinence, health care costs and environmental health.

"We give them those options that they can choose," she said. "We want them to not just do research or find the information but what they think are possible solutions, from the teen's perspective."

The contest was open to Wayne County teens in public, private and home-school settings, she said. Entries were reviewed by a volunteer group of judges from diverse backgrounds, expertise and organizations.

"We have received, I think, 28 essays," Davin Madden, health director, told the board at its recent meeting. "We had about 24 approved for judging that met the criteria."

A presentation and recognition ceremony will be held for the top three contenders during an evening meeting of the Board of Health, scheduled for July 16 at 7 p.m. at the Wayne County Center, 208 W. Chestnut Street.

"Instead of just reading their essays out, though, they will do a brief Power Point on the topic," Ms. Crawford said.

The meeting is open to the public.