Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2003
Avoid sex, St. Albert tells teens
School district launches program promoting sexual abstinence
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Research shows that about 30 per cent of young people will become sexually active by the end of Grade 9. At the same time, Alberta Health and Wellness identifies the spread of STDs as a problem in the 15-24-age group.
Concerned that this figure might be true for the communities it serves, the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division has launched a multifaceted campaign to promote sexual abstinence among teens in the 14-16-age group.
The initiative, called Be Free! It's Your Choice, will reach all 2,326 Grade 7-10 students in the division. It also includes an awareness campaign for parents, a keynote speaker in April and several follow-up activities in May and June.
"The staff in our schools are concerned that students are jeopardizing their physical, social, spiritual and emotional health by becoming involved in high-risk sexual activities, often without the realization of how such activity can negatively impact their lives," says campaign coordinator Dawn Kirvan.
"We realize that sexual behaviour among our teens is not part of God's plan for his people."
At the heart of the campaign is a series of lectures by Doug Herman, a renowned Colorado-based Christian motivational speaker and author who specializes in issues such us sexual choices, character and healthy relationships. Herman's popular presentations include Ripple Effect, an internationally requested talk that empowers teens to use wisdom and courage to remain sexually pure until marriage.
Kirvan, who is the religious and Christian family life consultant with Greater St. Albert Catholic, said the school division decided to tackle teen sexuality after finding in discussion with the students that "they really don't realize the full consequences of the behaviour that they might be involved in."
That's partially because the media encourages a carefree attitude toward sex. "Kids from a very young age get lots of messages to be sexually active," Kirvan said. "So we just wanted to help kids to realize that a choice to be abstinent frees them."
Teens tend to think that being free means being able to do whatever they want. "But that's a kind of a Catch 22 because if you do whatever you want that has consequences that are not freeing, like getting pregnant, getting an STD or having people trash your reputation, " Kirvan noted.
"But if you choose to be abstinent you actually will be free. You'll be free spiritually to follow God's plan and you'll be free physically, you won't get a disease or pregnancy, you won't have to worry about birth control and you'll be free socially to use your energy in positive areas and to have many healthy friendships.
"That's the kind of approach that we are using. A decision to be abstinent is a decision that helps you to be free in so many different ways."
As part of the campaign, parents will get a letter informing them of the issues surrounding teen sexuality as well as an invitation to attend a keynote presentation by Herman April 22 at 7 p.m. at St. Albert Catholic High School, 33 Malmo Drive. That presentation will also be open to the general public and to students in Grades 11 and 12.
Herman will address his target audience, Grade 7-10 students, at three presentations in St. Albert and Morinville. The first St. Albert presentation will be held at St. Albert Catholic High at 8:15 a.m. and the second at Ste Marguerite d'Youville School, 51 Boudreau Road, at 10:15 a.m. Herman will speak at Morinville Composite High School, 9506-100 Avenue, at 1:15 p.m.
Follow up activities in the school division will include lessons in health and religious classes, a counselling plan for students who require help, cross curricular lessons in subjects such as physical education and language arts, and viewing of the True Love video series that addresses such topics as HIV, HPV, relationships, pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse as they relate to teen sexuality.
The abstinence campaign, which costs almost $6,500 and is being funded by the Knights of Columbus and other charitable societies, blends perfectly with Alberta Learning's new Health and Life Skills Program, which encourages sexual abstinence, Kirvan noted.
The Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division has 7,500 students in 19 schools in St. Albert, Legal and Morinville.