Not too many youngsters from Jacksonville, Florida can say that they had dinner with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton but two young people from The Bridge of Northeast Florida, Inc. and two from the FACES program of Planned Parenthood did on Wednesday, September 14 at the East Hall of Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Whisked off to D.C. by Delores Barr Weaver, Deuntaye Sellers and Whitney Roberts from The Bridge and Theo Canty and Kiala Lindsey from Faces at Planned Parenthood had the exhilarating experience of attending the benefit dinner for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Escorted by Davy Parrish, President ,CEO and Mary Joseph, Straight Talk coordinator from The Bridge along with Lauren Jones, Teen Services Coordinator of Planned Parenthood, the young people were treated to an evening with dignitaries from all across the country. The event commemorated the 10th anniversary of the organization and the stunning decline in the teen pregnancy.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Representative Nancy Johnson (R.-CT) and Vivian Berryhill, Founder and President of the National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses were honored for their dedication to preventing teen pregnancy. In addition, Alexis Bledel – star of the popular and critically acclaimed WB show The Gilmore Girls was featured at the dinner as part of the National Campaign's salute to the entertainment industry.
"The most exciting part was flying on the plane' said Deuntaye Sellers, age 16, returning from his first plane ride. " But the dinner was good too. I like the Straight Talk groups at The Bridge and I was really happy that I was picked to go to this dinner with so many important people."
The National Campaign is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supported largely by private donations. Since its inception in 1996, the National Campaign has helped the nation achieve a nearly one-third reduction in teem pregnancy.
Delores Barr Weaver, through the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation and Weaver Family Foundation, was a sponsor for the dinner, and has been instrumental in the effort to reduce teen pregnancy in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation partners with The Bridge and other community supporters to provide Straight Talk, a component of the Bridge Health Program. The program provides gender specific and co-ed sexual health classes, weekly clinic sexuality education sessions, and community outreach with parents including family educational workshops.
"Programs like Straight Talk have reduced teen pregnancy in Duval County by 13% and we are very proud to say that we have 100% of the youth participating in Straight Talk successfully avoid pregnancy." said Delores Barr Weaver. "But we want those numbers to go even lower. Our goal now is to reduce them by another third".
"You would be hard pressed to find another area of social concern where the nation has made such progress," said Senator Joe Lieberman ( D-CT), co-chair of the National Campaign's Senate Advisory Panel.