Programs guide teens in decisions


POSTED: Monday, November 10, 2008

Healthy choices are the focus of sexual abstinence education programs conducted by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Honolulu and Catholic Charities.

“;Everyone bashing abstinence,”; said Danny Morishige, Catholic Charities program director. “;It's like throwing out the baby with the bath water.”;

He and other advocates argue that “;no-sex”; programs work when they part of a larger peer-group lesson on how to make good life decisions.

“;The basic concept is most important,”; Morishige said. “;I think most parents would not want children in their early teens to be engaging in sex. If anything, were reinforcing some of the messages.”;

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America's prevention-based SMART Moves Curriculum “;helps youth practice positive behavior and good decision-making,”; said Kathy Nishimoto, grant administrator for the clubs.

“;We provide youth with the tools and hope that when they are in an uncomfortable situation they will make the right choices.”; They are taught about abstinence with fun activities, she said.

For example, she noted Tele Fuata's “;Just Choice”; abstinence classes the past three years at the Waianae Clubhouse. Teens write “;Skittle Skits”; about scenarios youths face involving dating, relationships and peer pressure about drugs, alcohol and sex, Nishimoto said. They act out the scenarios in front of the group and discuss the situations.

“;The program has been successful because we are providing youth with tools for making positive choices and developing healthy relationships that they can use throughout their lives,”; Nishimoto said.

Of more than 100 youths who participated in the program, two became pregnant, she said. They are still club members and talk to other kids about the difficulties of teen parenting, she said.

Morishige said Catholic Charities is in the third year of a five-year federal funding cycle for an abstinence program, “;Try Wait!,”; that serves about 4,000 students from seventh to 12th grade in public and private schools.

The program is mostly in health classes and also some religion classes and youth groups. It reaches another 1,000 kids through community events and other activities, Morishige said.

He said Catholic Charities was one of only 34 recipients for the current community-based grant. There were more than 600 grant applicants.

The non-faith-based program modified a national abstinence education curriculum to be more appropriate and culturally sensitive for local students, he said.

Eight sessions cover the emotional consequences of casual sex, risks of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, peer pressure, making healthy choices, setting boundaries, how to say 'no,' and assertiveness skill building. Psychological issues, sexually transmitted diseases, infections and other issues of having sex at an early age are discussed, Morishige said.

“;We're not just telling them about the fears, but also giving them skills about how to make decisions about goals, how to achieve them, how to say 'no,' and issues of alcohol and drugs,”; he said.