Mary Chestnut is ready to talk about sex education.
The 17-year-old Academy of Richmond County student wants her parents, friends and every teenager to start talking, too. Chestnut helped begin the conversation Tuesday evening at a teen-pregnancy-prevention session for parents and teenagers.
“Teens aren’t educated,” she said. “They’re quick to believe what their friends tell them as the truth instead of reliable information.”
Chestnut volunteers for the Richmond County Youth Leadership Council on teenage-pregnancy prevention because she hopes her peers will start hearing and understanding the consequences of sexual activity.
About 20 teenagers and parents attended separate sessions at the Richmond County Health Department on Laney-Walker Boulevard to improve communication between parents and teens at home. The event was also intended to connect teens to reproductive health services.
“Parents are your best teacher and the principal influencer,” said Donna Elliston, the project director for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. “Parents and teens want information and effective strategies for communication.”
In 2010, GCAPP received a $7.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to lower Richmond County’s teen pregnancy and teen births by 10 percent in five years.
The grant funded Tuesday night’s program and has helped start two teen health clinics in Richmond County where teenagers can get confidential help, birth control, abstinence counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Eula Chestnut, Mary’s mother, said sex education begins at home with responsible parenting. She talks to her daughter about making smart and careful choices.
“If they are not able to talk to their parents about sex education, hopefully they are able to talk to peers and get the right information,” she said.