COLUMBIA - The Chesterfield County Youth Development Coalition has been working for some time in conjunction with a South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy contest called “Teen Expressions 2010.” The contest is now over and with more than 700 votes cast through an online viewer’s choice, Markeisha Nesbitt, a 17-year-old poet from Spartanburg High School, took home the grand prize with her video entry, “She Lost It.”
Second place went to Princess Moss, a 16-year-old from T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson for her outstanding art entry, “Tears of Calamity.”
Denisha Akins, a 15-year-old from Wade Hampton High School, (Hampton), took third place with her poem entitled “I Am a Teen Mother.”
The winners, along with all published teens, were honored last Wednesday night at Trustus Theatre in Columbia.
From the page to the stage, a dramatic performance of “I am a teen. Is there an App for that?” brought the published entries to life through a dramatic performance by the Trustus Apprentice Company. Nesbitt also performed her winning entry, which ended the night’s event with a standing ovation.
Now in its eighth year, Teen Expressions is an exciting way for teens to showcase their talents and have their voices heard on issues affecting young people in South Carolina. Designed solely for teens, the contest encourages young people to creatively express how teen pregnancy and other issues affect their lives. The winners each received their choice of a Flip Video Camcorder, Digital Camera or iPod Shuffle, along with a trip to Charleston to be recognized at the S.C. Campaign’s 11th Annual Summer Institute. In total, 21 teens had their poems, artwork or short stories featured in the 2010 Teen Expressions publication.
Margaret Plettinger-Mitchell, Executive Director of the Chesterfield County Coordinating Council, said that the contest is geared to alert teenagers, both boys and girls, about preventing teen pregnancy.
“This is a very unique campaign. Each year, the contest is for all teenagers, ages 14 -19 years. The goal is to get teens involved with the issue of teen pregnancy. Each teen who participated submitted a poem, short story, art, photo or a video to win,” said Plettinger-Mitchell.
The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was founded in 1994 to respond to concerns in South Carolina and across the country about high rates of teen pregnancy. Since that time, the South Carolina Campaign has been the only organization in South Carolina that works in all of the state’s 46 counties exclusively focused on the reduction of teen pregnancy.
After 15 years of dedication and commitment to the issue, great progress has been made within the state. From 1994 through 2004, teen pregnancy rates in South Carolina decreased by 25 percent. Even with such remarkable progress, more than one in every three teen females will get pregnant, at least once, before her twentieth- birthday.
More importantly, teen pregnancy rates over the last three years have begun to increase. Since 2004, teen pregnancy rates have increased by eight-percent and have increased in 34 of the state’s 46 counties, including Chesterfield County. In the midst of this disturbing trend, the work of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has become even more important.
Through mission based focus areas of training and technical assistance, public awareness, advocacy and research, evaluation work continues to increase the capacity of individuals at the local level to address the critical issue of teen pregnancy.
Still, the fight to educate teens and youth about teen pregnancy continues to grow throughout South Carolina as well as the nation. The mission of the S.C. Campaign is to prevent adolescent pregnancy in South Carolina through education, technical assistance, public awareness, advocacy and research. To achieve its mission, the S.C. Campaign works with a variety of programs, including public, private, school and community based in each of the state’s 46 counties.
According to the Chesterfield County Coordinating Council Youth Development Coalition, 135 young ladies ages 10-19 became pregnant in 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available). To compare this number with other counties and the state as a whole, the number of pregnancies per 1,000 girls is the teen pregnancy rate.
“The Chesterfield County rate is 45.7 percent, greater than the state rate of 36.5 percent. In fact, only 12 other counties have a rate greater than ours. All the more disheartening is that a great percentage of these pregnant teens were pregnant again,” said Chesterfield County Coordinating Council/United Way of Chesterfield County Director, Margaret Plettinger Mitchell.
According to Plettinger-Mitchell, in 2006, Chesterfield County led the state in the repeat teen pregnancy rate and becoming pregnant involves both genders. A pregnant teen, married or not, has greater difficulty in school, being self sufficient, and is more likely to live in poverty. The babies of teen parents are more likely to be born underweight, premature, and suffer higher rates of abuse and neglect, according to the www.teenpregnancysc.org Web site.
To download a copy of the publication, watch Nesbitt’s winning entry or view photos from the event at www.teenpregnancysc.org.