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Contest aims to promote teen pregnancy prevention in Washington County

January 07, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Carrol Lourie says she wants Washington County teens to know that sex has consequences.

Teen mothers are likely to drop out of school and live in poverty ? possibilities that could be prevented by waiting to become sexually active, she said.

Lourie is the director of the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, which for the second year is seeking entries for a contest aimed at spreading the coalition's message.

Print advertisements, 30-second videos, short films and radio advertisements will be judged, and more than $4,500 in cash prizes will be awarded. The deadline to enter is Feb. 29.

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"The point of view in this community was kids have been getting pregnant ... the way things are is the way they are going to be," Lourie said. "It doesn't have to stay this way."

According to data from 2004, Washington County has the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the state, behind Baltimore City, and Caroline and Dorchester counties on the Eastern Shore. Howard County has the lowest teen birth rate.

Lourie said Washington County has the highest birth rate in Maryland among white teens.

"Every year for the past 10 years, several hundred teens give birth," she said. "We don't know the pregnancy rate because we don't know how many have miscarriages or abortions."

Lourie said the contest is aimed at "waking up" teens and their parents about the dangers of teen pregnancy. Last year's theme also was "Sex Has Consequences," and about 140 entries were received.

While there have been no entries so far, Lourie said she hopes to double the number received. She and others have reached out to area high schools to get students involved in the contest.

A new addition to this year's contest is the radio advertisement, allowing students to participate who are not artists and who don't have video equipment, she said.

"We're hoping to reduce the number of teens getting pregnant in our community," Lourie said. "We're warning parents who will see the messages and say to themselves, 'This might be something that can happen to my child.'"

This might prompt parents to speak with their teens about sexual responsibility and healthy dating. The ads might also warn Washington County youth to think about their behaviors and values, she said.

"They'll see how becoming pregnant ... can hurt what they want in the future for themselves," Lourie said.




If you enter



What: Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition's ad and film contest

When: The deadline to enter is Feb. 29.

Details: For information about how to enter, official rules and eligibility requirements, go to www.unitedwaywashcounty.org. Information also is available by e-mailing the coalition's director, Carrol Lourie, at clourie@myactv.net.

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