Every pregnant girl knows the ultimate prevention method for pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) is abstinence. All the condoms and vaccines in the world can never be as effective as a simple, but determined, "No."
Although the basic message is plain and simple, this solution works best through a well-structured educational program that gets the message of abstinence to teens before they make irresponsible sexual choices.
The experience of S.A.f.E. (Sex and Family Education) in Birmingham, Alabama, is a good example of how abstinence education programs can be successful. Over the past fourteen years, S.A.f.E. has developed and implemented abstinence-until-marriage courses in Alabama classrooms. Since then, S.A.f.E. has developed six different curricula designed to prevent, rather than merely respond to, adolescent pregnancy and STDs. Through collaboration with local non-profit agencies, health departments, community volunteers, and school administrators, S.A.f.E. has expanded its outreach into more than 125 communities nationwide.
The original and main curriculum, You Are Unique, targets junior high school students. This 3-hour course encourages responsible, mature consideration of the harmful consequences of pre-marital sex and the benefits of sexual abstinence. The course addresses emotional as well as physical concerns and equips students with strategies for making healthy sexual choices. Clear, accurate, and up-to-date information; colorful transparencies; and engaging demonstrations supplement a fully scripted teacher's manual for You Are Unique.
Attitudinal surveys of participating students before and after the presentation bear witness to the effectiveness of this approach.
The S.A.f.E. message generates enthusiastic responses. Schools have asked for supplementary courses for younger and older students. On average, more than 98% of parents support S.A.f.E.'s programs by giving permission for their children to participate. School administrators and teachers have found S.A.f.E.'s programs to have a positive impact on the attitudes of their students. Using response cards, students indicate that they appreciate the straight talk from a caring presenter.
How did all this come about? That is the question many ask when they see the entire scope of the S.A.f.E. ministry. From a one-course, one-school presentation to a comprehensive set of curricula presented in hundreds of classrooms across the country each year, S.A.f.E. has grown and evolved through a process of trial and refinement. Many who have presented the program have contributed to its development.
Now that the program is tested and proven, you should consider setting up an abstinence-until-marriage education program for schools in your area. In order to do so, you must develop knowledge, contacts, funding, and persistence.
To teach others, you must first teach yourself. You must research:
1. Your state's course of study
Many states require the teaching of abstinence in their sex education curriculum. Find out exactly what your state expects of its sex education teachers and provide materials these people can use. If your state does not require abstinence education, you may have to start a grassroots movement to get it implemented into the sex education curriculum.
2. The school system you are targeting
You must be able to offer a program that will be compatible with the school's scheduling, class period length, class size, and the types of students you will encounter.
3. The available curricula
There are several good abstinence-until-marriage curricula available. Research them all and choose one which best addresses your goals and situation. Caution, many sex education curricula present abstinence as one of many choices for "safe sex." This mixed message is confusing to students and negates your purpose. Choose an engaging curriculum that has as its objectives that students will:
A. Develop self-worth and personal values
B. Use strategies for choosing and remaining sexually abstinent
C. Receive accurate information regarding sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy
D. Recognize abstinence as the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy and STDs
You must become a one-person publicity agency regarding your desire to start an abstinence-until-marriage program. Spread the word among:
1. Community churches
Ask to speak to Sunday school classes or interested groups. They can supply entrées into schools, support, and volunteer help. Offer to present a Christian version of an abstinence course to that church's youth.
2. School administrators and faculty
Contact principals, counselors, school nurses, and health teachers or other appropriate teachers. Arrange a meeting to introduce your program to them. Or find teachers who can get you into their schools.
3. Community leaders
Contact community leaders, supportive local newspaper reporters, television personalities, and talk radio programs to inform them of your goals and the need for abstinence-until-marriage education in your community. Often, you will find that a company that employs a large number of parents from a particular school will support your efforts. Never refuse any invitation to speak on the topic of abstinence.
Ask teachers and administrators to evaluate your program and write letters of support that can be shared with other schools.
There are many potential sources of support for your efforts. It is imperative that you establish your program as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization or that you affiliate with one. This will allow you to raise money through:
1. Individual donations
Many times contacts meant to open doors into schools will open someone's wallet too. If you can find a way to use volunteers in your program, these people will often support your program financially as well.
2. Federal, state, and private grants
There are many agencies providing grant assistance for programs that benefit communities.
3. Community churches and civic organizations
It will take time and effort, but it can be done! You can be sure that such an endeavor will prevent some tragic consequences in the lives of the teens you reach.
Establish partnerships with people who are convinced of the importance of your message. You will need a support group.
Above all, cover your efforts with prayer. "Abstinence until marriage" is a message straight from God's Word, and He will bless your efforts to become "salt and light" to our children.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sallie Dewberry is a S.A.f.E. volunteer instructor and board member. For more information about S.A.f.E., see www.sexandfamilyeducation.org.