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'That' conversation

STDs, pregnancy and more all discussed at school

May 11, 2011 - By Olivia Shumaker

Special Writer for The Review

An intense speaker with an equally intense message to deliver. Yet that was no deterrent to Pam Stenzel, who visited Lake Orion High School to talk about the importance of abstinence and the dangers of sex for teens.

Despite the sensitivity of her subject, Stenzel held little back with her presentation. She spoke strongly about frightening statistics and anecdotes, explaining choices made now will matter. In a way, her blunt frankness made the topic less awkward to hear, so students could move beyond ingrained terror of the discussion and fully listen to the message.

"If our students are willing to listen and truly hear the message, they are going to hear a message with life impacting potential," said administrator Chris Bell.

Stenzel worked for nine years in Alpha Women's Center, which counsels women going through crises pregnancies. Throughout her time at the center, Stenzel heard two expressions more than anything else, "I didn't know," and "Nobody told me."

Over time, Stenzel began asking girls what they wish others had told them and decided to directly educate young people about those same issues. Stenzel has traveled all over the world talking about the often unspoken topics of abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen sex.

In her time at the Alpha Women's Center, she learned more girls were afraid of being pregnant than they were of contracting an STD or sexually transmitted disease.

Also predominant among girls Stenzel tested was the idea that they could not possibly catch an STD. "I've had university students who said they didn't need STD tests because they were drunk," Stenzel said.

However, 14,000 teens will contract an STD within the next 24 hours. "You actually believe that if you don't get up the next morning and herpes isn't tattooed to your head, 'I don't have it,'" Stenzel said.

Essentially, there are two forms of STDs: bacterial or virus. Bacterial diseases are curable, but viral STDs are incurable.

Today, there are more than 30 known STDs, 30 percent are incurable. Though Stenzel noted at Alpha Women's Center girls were more afraid of becoming pregnant than contracting an STD, there is a four times greater chance of transmitting a disease than becoming pregnant.

This chance is even higher if the girl in question is taking birth control—the chemicals constituting birth control pills make a girl 10 times more likely to contract a disease.

All STDs can be contracted from any form of sexual activity.

Still, Stenzel did not exclude pregnancy from her presentation. "This is not a puppy, this is not someone to love you," Stenzel said.

Out of the girls who choose to parent as teens, 80 percent will live below the poverty line. Among those same girls, 90 percent will not finish high school.

"The best option for teen mothers is adoption," Stenzel said. "They have to realize that they want the best for their child, and that they are not it."

Stenzel has personal experience behind such claims. In the 1964, her mother, a teenager, was raped and became pregnant. Her mother chose to carry Stenzel to term and gave her up for adoption.

Stenzel's presentation covered a wide range of topics, but Stenzel maintained her message that choices teens make now will affect the rest of their lives.

"We hope that students as a result of this information will think about the effect their actions can have on their life," said Lake Orin High School Principal Sophia Lafayette.

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