Teens in Glynn County Take on Tough Issues

May 7, 2015

Thirteen-year-old Thomas Hunter wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when he showed up to the recent Teens on the Rock 2 conference in Brunswick. But at the end of the day, after learning about things such as self- defense techniques and sexually transmitted infections, Hunter was sure of one thing: He was glad he came.

“This was a great program,” said Hunter. “I’m glad to know that there are people in the community who care about us. I wish there were more opportunities like this.”

That was music to the ears of Glynn County Health Department Administrator, Karen Mikell, R.N., and Coastal Health District Adolescent Health and Youth Development (AHYD) Coordinator, LeKara Simmons, who coordinated the day-long teen conference.

As the reintroduction of a similar conference held years ago in Glynn County, Teens on the Rock 2 was open to teens ages 12 to 17 at no cost and close to 40 teenagers participated.

“Being a teenager today is a lot different than it used to be. This population is facing challenges that we never would have dreamed of just 10 years ago,” said Mikell. “Teens are a vital part of our community and we put together this conference in the hopes of giving them some guidance on how to handle some of the issues they come across.”

The attendees split up into groups, created a group name and color, established a group leader, and then rotated through discussions and hands-on workshops throughout the day. Topics addressed in the many sessions offered included: social media and privacy protection; myths and facts about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); school bullying; and self-defense methods.

One particularly interesting moment occurred at the beginning of the session on bullying.

The presenter purposely targeted the group leader with some negative remarks while the teen was entering the room. Finally, when one of the others in the group had enough, he told the presenter to “knock it off.” That purposeful demonstration initiated a very open and frank discussion on how to handle a bully.

“They talked about different scenarios and what to do if you get bullied,” said Simmons. “You could tell it hit home with a lot of the kids."

The self-defense program also presented the teens with various scenarios. Participants were taught defensive tips and techniques by both male and female officers from the Brunswick Police Department. 

While the self- defense session helped teach the kids how to protect themselves from physical assault, the interactive sessions on STDs taught them how to protect themselves from the spread of disease.

Talking with teens about sex and STDs can be tough topics for parents and health educators. Glynn County organizers made sure they used this opportunity to educate and answer questions about sex, relationships and prevention of STDs, including HIV and teen pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that youth ages 15-24 make up just over one quarter of the sexually active population, but account for half of the 20 million new STDs that occur in the U.S. each year. 

Teens participated in a session on health education to understand STDs and how infection is transmitted.

At the beginning, each person was given an index card that either had a “D” for disease, “A” for abstinence or “U” for unprotected sex. During the course of the session, the cards were passed around to each attendee. However, before passing the cards off, a teen had to sign his or her name to the card. At the end of the group exercise, they understood how quickly and easily STDs spread and what teens can do to reduce the behavior and lifestyle choices that put them at risk.

Both Mikell and Simmons said they plan to host another Teens on the Rock conference in Glynn County. Simmons said she would also like to try and hold similar forums in other Coastal Health District counties.

“I would really like to do more youth-focused events like this one,” she said. “It wasn’t just focused on health, it was also focused on overall holistic development. The conference was able to give youth a holistic approach to adolescent youth issues.”

To sign up for the next Teens on the Rock conference, contact LeKara Simmons, Coastal Health District Adolescent Health and Youth Development coordinator, at LeKara.Simmons@dph.ga.gov or (912) 644-5816.

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