The months of April and May usually involve high school students preparing for the annual rituals of prom and graduation. Bad decisions, however, can turn an everlasting memory into an unforgettable experience.
Thanks to "Prom Health and Safety Week," (April 15-19), juniors and seniors at Hancock Central High School in Sparta are fully aware of life-changing events due to a lapse in judgment. The week is coordinated by Ginger Chastine, Fort Valley State University's Hancock County extension agent.
"My focus is to raise awareness because at this time of the year, risky behavior tends to develop," Chastine said. She says that alcohol consumption among teenagers leads to bad-decision making that can cause car accidents and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which can lead to AIDS.
April is also National STD Awareness Month, and Chastine arranged for Dr. Jimmie H. Smith, an assistant professor at Mercer University's School of Medicine, to address students on the dangers of such diseases.
"One of the best things I think we can do to assist with the prevention of STDs is to count on three things. One is to educate, motivate and empower them to act," Smith said. He said education is vital to make sure students and responsible adults around them have the proper information concerning STDs.
"To know better is to do better, that's where the motivation piece comes in," Smith said. Chastine said statistics show HIV is on rise for young people between the ages of 13-24 and education and information can go a long way in preventing people from contracting the disease.
Akiia Andrews, an 18-year-old senior attending Hancock Central, said she is very appreciative about the information she learned concerning STDs. "I learned that you have to take responsibility for your actions and you can't just jump into things. You have to analyze and think before you make sudden actions."
Andrews said she has developed a set of guidelines based on the information she received and intends to adhere to them. She also thanked Chastine for bringing "Prom Health and Safety Week" activities to her school.