Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to pick up a magazine or turn on the television without being bombarded with sexual images. As Kandace Brown sees it, "The media makes it look like everybody's having sex and no one's paying any consequences."
That is why she, along with many other concerned parents and educators, are working to teach society's youth that there are risks involved in having sex.
Brown is the area coordinator of PEP (Peers Educating Peers), a group of high school students who are committed to abstaining from sex "outside the marriage relationship." She is also a CPR (Creating Positive Relationships) instructor.
PEP is funded by Project Respect, a $25,000 Federal grant through the Indiana State Department of Health for the purpose of reducing teen pregnancy. Brown says that Sherry Dicer, the grant's facilitator, "has worked diligently to bring awareness to the problem in her community" for the past eight years.
There are currently 11 participants in PEP who speak to 6th, 7th and 8th graders once a year about the importance of refraining from sexual activity. They share personal life experiences and their reasons for choosing abstinence as part of CPR's program.
Last Friday, Northview High School students Kyle Nees and Krista Wilson talked to 6th graders at North Clay Middle School about their reasons for not having sex.
Nees told them that because he is an athlete, he does not want to do anything that could interfere with performing to his "best ability." He says his religion is also a factor and that it is easier for him to stick to his morals since his girlfriend has chosen abstinence too.
"I don't believe in pre-marital sex," Wilson stated. "I want to fulfill my education." She added that she enjoys spending time "around good people with good morals" and that she and her friends act as a "support group" for one another.
CPR classroom instructors Jennifer and Aaron Dicer then spoke to the 6th graders. They expanded on the idea that it is important for teens to surround themselves with positive influences. This should apply not only when kids are selecting their friends, but also when they are deciding what music to listen to, what movies to watch and so on.
According to Brown, the pregnancy rate among girls ages 15 to 19 was almost 10 percent in 1992. CPR was started in 1995. By 2000, she says the pregnancy rate was down to about 4.8 percent.
Besides getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease, CPR helps prepare teens for or prevent them from having to go through the negative feelings that may surface after engaging in sexual activity. Brown says that sex is often portrayed as a "free thing," when in fact it can cause people to experience emotional pain and regret their actions.
Connie Young, 6th grade health and physical education teacher at North Clay, feels the approach taken by CPR is "very age appropriate." She has taught for 24 years and in her opinion, "influences that are on these kids now are greater than ever."
Having high school students involved, Young thinks, is also helpful. "They've seen them around" or "are friends with their brothers or sisters," she says, so they can "connect with them."
Brown stressed that those who wish to be a part of PEP are "held to a high accountability level." They are challenged throughout the year and must be "firm and strong in their beliefs."
"One major point," Brown specified, is that abstinent teenagers should not feel alone because "a new study" indicates that 57 percent of people in their age group have opted to wait to have sex. Also, a percentage of teens are becoming "secondary virgins," who Brown explains will be "abstaining from sex now on."
CPR teaches for three days in 6th grade, five days in each 7th and 8th grade and three days in high school each year. PEP kids work with 6th graders on one of those days and with 7th graders and 8th graders for three of the five days. Lynn Stoelting teaches the first of the three days for 6th graders and two days in the high school.
A meeting is held every fall for the parents of all 6th grade students to discuss CPR, but all parents are invited to attend. The CPR program "stresses parental involvement," says Brown.
She adds that the "program continues to grow, but we are always looking for teen role models who take the stand on choosing abstinence until marriage." Any teenagers interested in becoming a member of PEP should contact Sherry Dicer at the Extension Office.