Help parents, youth with real life issues

If you ask parents and youth what is the biggest challenge facing teenagers today, the overwhelming majority will say the issue of sex ranks among the top.

According to Child Trends Research, teen pregnancy rates, birth rates and rates of sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. are among the highest in the industrialized world.

An estimated 750,000 girls ages 15-19 become pregnant each year costing taxpayers nearly $7 billion, and although teenagers only account for 10 percent of the population, they contract 25 percent of new sexually transmitted diseases, nearly 4 million annually.

As parents and the community, we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to educate youth about the emotional, physical, financial and spiritual consequences of teen sex. We can no longer remain silent in hopes that the issue will disappear.

Despite the discomfort adults may feel addressing this topic, 9 out of 10 teens (88 percent) say it would be easier to avoid early sexual activity and teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.

Diamond In The Rough and I Am Beautiful, two Gwinnett County organizations, have joined in collaboration to host the third Annual Girls of Greatness Abstinence and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Symposium Feb. 9. The full-day event will be held on the campus of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross.

The conference has successfully sold out for the last two years serving more than 700 youths and parents, and in response to requests, preparations are under way to also serve girls in Columbia, S.C., and Austin, Texas, in the spring of 2008. The main conference theme and shared aim for the event is to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases within the community by equipping girls with information to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their futures.

The conference will include nationally recognized youth motivational speakers, special workshops, and panel discussions, all designed to teach girls to avoid peer and media pressures, as well as other life threatening behaviors associated with low self-esteem. It will also provide a full day of workshops for parents and adults to educate them on youth culture and provide tools for effective communication.

This exciting conference is open to young girls ages 10 to 18 and their parents and/or chaperones. For information on registration, vendor space, or sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.girlsofgreatness.com.

You can learn more about Diamond in the Rough by visiting www.ditr.org and I Am Beautiful at www.iambeautiful.org.

Don't miss this extraordinary conference that will embrace, educate, and empower girls of all ages.

Nicole Steele is Executive Director of Diamond In The Rough a faith-based leadership program that provides group mentoring, life skills training and career coaching to girls ages 10-18.

For more information visit www.ditr.org or call 678-376-9676.