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Pregnancy program's message - Just Say 'Know'

Program stresses education as way to reduce teen pregnancy rate

Program stresses education as way to reduce teen pregnancy rate

July 31, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - The government hasn't been able to lower teen pregnancy rates. Nor have the schools, as Washington County continues to rank high - sometimes even first - in the state in this problem area.

So now the religious community is getting ready to launch its faith-based program called Just Say "Know" in hopes of finding favor with parents and young people alike.

"I discovered this program in 2006 while at a conference for Christian educators in Oklahoma," said Cindy Reeder, Christian educator/program facilitator at First Christian Church in Hagerstown.

An eye-opening experience for Reeder, the conference prompted her to bring the concept back to Washington County in hopes of having a similar training activity for parents, grandparents, clergy and anyone else who wants to know how to talk about sex with teenagers and younger children.

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The conference's keynote speaker, the Rev. Linda Adam Goddard, is coming to Hagerstown to present the Just Say "Know" Christian Sexuality Training Sept. 28 and 29, Reeder said.

Held at First Christian Church, the Sept. 28 workshop will be from 7 to 10 p.m., while the Sept. 29 session will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $25.

So far, 26 people are signed up, Reeder said, noting there is room for several hundred at First Christian. Lutheran, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Brethren and Catholic are among the denominations expressing interest in the program.

Reeder said parents are the first educators of children and equipping them to talk with their children is the goal of the program.

"We will be talking about everything from A to Z, not just abstinence," Reeder said.

Carrol Lourie, coordinator of the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, said Washington County has the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in Maryland.

"We're first with teenage white girls," she said.

Because of these startling figures, Reeder pushed hard to get the program going in Washington County, with the Teen Pregnancy Coalition as a sponsor, along with the faith community.

"I went to Charlotte Walsh of Faith Community Nursing Council at First Christian Church and said I believed the council should do this," Reeder said.

Walsh said the council represents 42 churches with Faith Community Nursing groups, formerly known as parish nurses. The members are enthusiastic, she said.

The reality is that youth get messages about sex everywhere, including television, movies, magazines, friends and school, and faith communities have got to join the conversation.

"One of the values of the coalition is that everyone has a place at the table," Lourie said. "Some who are for abstinence only will come and learn there has to be more than one approach."

Teams trained in September will be equipped to offer the curriculum to adults and youth in their own churches, Walsh said. The curriculum includes modules for adults and children in elementary through high school.

Every module includes information and support for parents in talking with their children about sex.

"You cannot teach what you have not been taught," Walsh pointed out in describing the course. "Youth need to make good spiritual decisions about sex and intimacy."

For more information, contact Lourie at 240-818-7555 by Aug. 15.

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