Kenwood club helps girls take control of their lives

Students promise to resist pressure to be sexually active

August 19, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Jamie Roberts knows the price her mother and older sister paid for getting pregnant as teen-agers. And at age 16, she doesn't intend to follow in their footsteps.

"I told myself I would never have to worry about that," said Roberts, who will be a junior at Kenwood High School in Essex and is president of an unusual club at the school that focuses on teen-age sexual abstinence.

This spring, Roberts teamed with Michele Hax Fite, a social worker with the Baltimore County Department of Social Services. Together they developed The Girl's Room, a club for female students at Kenwood who want to abstain from sex and fight the peer pressure to be sexually active.

Yesterday, the club's members told their stories at Winning Choices, a statewide conference sponsored by the Maryland Abstinence Education and Coordination Program that drew about 300 teen-agers, parents and professionals to Martin's West in Woodlawn.

"It's essential to begin talking openly not only with young students but adolescents about self-respect," said Shirley Reid, who supervises teen-age pregnancy programs for the county's Department of Social Services.

In a series of talks and panel discussions, members of the Kenwood club discussed why they have promised to abstain from sex until they're married.

Tamara Myrick, 16, who addressed the conference at lunch, shared her feelings about why she wants to remain abstinent.

"I want to graduate from high school and college, to hike the Appalachian Trail, explore the Grand Canyon, visit African tribes," said Myrick, who will be a senior at the high school.

The Girl's Room, funded by the county's Department of Social Services, is the only club of its kind in the county and meets at a school with one of the highest rates of teen-age births in the school district, said Patti Flowers-Coulson, director of the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy.

The club has been meeting weekly since April, with about 10 members sharing their feelings about boys, sex and love and talking about what it means to be abstinent. The girls said the group creates a comfortable atmosphere where they can trust and respect each other.

"We get wild," Myrick said. "We talk about anything and everything."

Lania Matthews, 16, said a lot of students at the high school make her feel as though being a virgin isn't "the thing to be." But she said the group helps her realize that not everyone her age is having sex.

"Sex is really precious, and you should wait for the right time and the right one to do it," said Matthews, the club's vice president, who will be a sophomore at the high school.

The girls also take weekly field trips, including trips to rock-climbing gyms, amusement parks and poetry readings. Those activities help fulfill the thrill-seeking attitude that some girls may have toward sex, Hax Fite said.

"It's a way for them to feel good about themselves," she said. "There are ways to thrill them and excite them, and it isn't all about boys."

Roberts, who says she has endured pressure to be sexually active, said she won't let anything stand in the way of her goals -- she wants to be a writer or a real estate agent.

"I'll do my best to meet my goals before I settle down and have kids," Roberts said.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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