NORTH WILDWOOD – Over 100 young people from grades 7 through 12 with their parents, pastors, youth ministers and religious education leaders walked through Wildwood Catholic High School’s doors April 9.
It was Saturday, so the throng was not going to school for extra class time although, in a sense, they were going to an event that would provide some important lessons in the Game of Life.
The occasion was the second annual “Truth and Teens (TNT) Chastity and Prolife Youth Rally” sponsored by Cape May County Right to Life and “Peer Challenge.”
This organization, according to its literature, has been serving schools and youth since 1998 to “help postpone sexual activity and avoid other risk-taking activity through Title V funding provided by the state.”
Featured speaker and leading the event was Matthew Maher, former professional soccer player and author. Maher was keynote speaker and delivered a message that youth should be “unashamed” of using the Gospel to guide their behavior.
As Herald readers know, because of his monthly column written during his five-plus years in prison, Maher was convicted of manslaughter having killed a man while driving drunk and frequently shares his belief in Jesus as how he overcame the aftermath of that tragedy.
“We hope that the kids who attend today will leave understanding there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct themselves through life. Problems such as acquiring STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) or teenage pregnancy are a result of youth having normal child-like perception entering into adult relationships, i.e. having sex before marriage,” said Maher.
Steve Atzert, treasurer of the local Right to Life chapter, added, “We want our youth to be equipped to avoid the pressures that surround them that then lead to risky behaviors. If they have Jesus in their lives, they can follow the path of lasting value and wait until sanctified marriage for a sexual relationship. As the old saying truly reflects, ‘true love waits’.”
The event featured Peer Challenge group leaders who used a series of interactive games and much-appreciated prizes to reinforce their message to the students. For example, the “Wheel of Misfortune” engaged students to help them see the wisdom and benefits of saving sex for marriage. Students landed on spots on the wheel ranging from “temporary excitement” to “unwanted baby” thereby graphically focusing on the outcomes of poor choices.
Another interactive game included exchange of test tube fluids that tangibly showed how easily it is to contract STDs. Statistics were shared that one in four sexually-active teens acquires a sexually-transmitted diseases each year that equals 8,000 daily, and that most STDs have no cure and are the cause of life-long infertility ad higher rates of depression among teenagers.
Videos addressed those subjects as well as the damage sexting can cause to all parties.
Area Christian songwriter and recording artist, Dawson Coyle performed songs that focus on being a light for Christ. Christian recording artist Chelsea Musick also from the South Jersey region performed and talked about purity and bullying noting that she had written a particular song for her sister who was being harassed by “friends” who did not accept her Christian beliefs.
Both the young participants and their parents and adult chaperones were unanimous in their praise of the program and the great effect it is having on attitudes to eschew premarital sex and remain true in their faith. Many teens came from home schooled or Christian educational backgrounds and noted that they wished their friends in public school could have the same access to these faith-based rallies as they did.
To contact Camille Sailer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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