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Trying to convince teens not to risk their futures

January 30, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

When teens are bucking the national trend on dropping out of high school, that's a good thing. When a county's young people are topping the national average for teen births, let's just say that there won't be any balloons or streamers when that announcement is made.

In February 2007, the National Center for Health Statistics issued a report that said that the national rate of teen births had fallen (in 2005) to 40.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.

How remarkable is that?

The Washington Post quoted Brady Hamilton, lead author of the report, as saying that it was "the lowest rate ever recorded in 65 years for which we have consistent data."

According the Centers for Disease Control, Maryland's birth rate in that year for the same population was 31.8 per 1,000.

Washington County's latest data is for 2004, which showed that this area had the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the state, behind Baltimore City and the Eastern Shore counties of Dorchester and Caroline.

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Yes, it's possible that the newest data, due in a month or two, might show a drop in this county's rate. But the members of Washington County's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition aren't taking anything for granted.

This week the group held its first meeting of the year, to start mapping out strategy to tackle a problem identified as a serious community issue three years ago.

Carroll Lourie, the coalition's director, said that to promote the second annual ad and film contest, coalition representatives went to each county high school's cafeteria, offering information and wristbands with the coalition's new Web address, which is www.teenshavechoices.org.

The site is still under construction, but the coalition has posted an entry form and rules for producing a public service advertisement in one of four categories - print ad, 30-second video, short film and radio script.

More than $4,500 in prizes will be awarded for the advertisements that best illustrate the theme "Sex Has Consequences."

Entries are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 29, at the coalition's drop point at the offices of the United Way of Washington County, at 33 W. Franklin St., Suite 203, Hagerstown MD 21740.

Prizes will be awarded at a Monday, May 19, Maryland Theatre ceremony that Lourie said will feature an Academy Award theme.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and after a half-and-hour of mingling and looking at the print entries, the event will begin.

But the coalition isn't putting all of its eggs in one basket, or contest, if you will. Other events will include:

· A stakeholders' meeting from 3 to 4 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 21, at office space donated by Ellsworth Electric at 89 W. Lee St. Hagerstown. Following that meeting, Lourie said, the coalition will hold an open house at 88 W. Lee St., for all who are interested.

· A family health forum, on Thursday, May 8, from 4:40 to 8 p.m. at Suite 142 of the Robinwood Medical Center off Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown.

The forum will address subjects of importance to teens and parents, including everything from pregnancy prevention to skin care. There will even be a car show and a pottery demonstration.

The event will also feature an original play by the Authentic Community Theatre, Lourie said.

The play is designed to bridge the gap between values and actions regarding sexuality, using a variety of theater techniques.

The cost is $10 per person, but if you can't afford that, call 1-888-803-1518 and ask about scholarship information.

In the next year, Lourie said the coalition hopes to help set up additional locations where teens can get confidential information on pregnancy prevention.

At this point, she said, only the health department offices in Hagerstown and Hancock and the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown provide free services for teens.

For parents unsure about what they can do, the coalition has put together a Parent Toolkit. To get one, call Lourie at 240-818-7555 or e-mail her at clourie@myactv.net. Better to have one and not need it than to take the chance that your teen will always do the right thing.

Bob Maginnis is
editorial page editor of
The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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