Raquel Robinson hadn't heard of herpes simplex virus before Saturday, but what the 14-year-old found out is enough to keep her abstinent for a long time, she said.
"It's a nasty thing to have," she said, frowning. "I'm going to wait to have sex when I'm married."
Raquel got her information during a daylong Teen Power Forum sponsored by the 100 Black Men organization and Beulah Grove Community Resource Center. It was held at AugustaRichmond County Civic Center.
About 70 teen-agers attended sessions on neighborhood violence, sex, drugs, alcohol and media marketing.
"The purpose was to empower young people by giving them the whole picture," said Lisa Coleman, who spearheaded the project. "It troubles me that there are young people who feel hopeless, and that's because they haven't seen better."
Organizers chose topics they felt would interest young people, she said, with the hope of giving them information that would prompt them to make wise decisions.
The purpose was to formulate solutions to conflicts, deal with violence inside and outside the home and to help teens understand the consequences of their actions, she said.
One session tried to teach young people how media marketing strategies seek to make them think they need expensive name brands to project a good image.
Session leaders shared candid anecdotes and advice about life's obstacles, sex and drugs in particular.}
"If you think you're mature enough to have sex, then you ought to be mature enough to walk in a drug store and buy a box of condoms," said Sharon Myers, former director of
Girls Inc., in urging the teens to stay abstinent until marriage.
The session leader on drugs and alcohol tried to convince the young people that easy money and nice cars obtained through selling drugs will only end in disaster.
Raquel's sister, Brittany Robinson, 10, said the comments "scared me a little."
"I learned that cocaine can kill you," she said. "I thought it was sad how people get hooked on cocaine and die."
The girls' parents, Byron and Sandra Robinson, said they wanted to bring their three daughters to the forum to solidify the teachings they have begun at home.
"We're interested in the improvement of our community and the improvement of our kids. We talk to them a lot about life skills," said Mr. Robinson. "We also want to see what we can do. A lot of people sit back and complain about how bad things are and aren't doing anything."
The conference, which lasted from noon to 8 p.m., was capped off with a concert by gospel rap artists Barry G, K-2-S and Rappers for Christ.
Organizers plan to make the forum an annual event, hoping to increase the numbers of participants as word spread.
"We think a teen summit provides them with the opportunity to express themselves and give the teens alternatives for handling things," said Sanford Lloyd, president of 100 Black Men. "By bringing in people who have skills, there will be more discussion and gives the kids a chance to share their ideas."
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