Community organizers, health professionals and residents came together this past Saturday at the Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest to help raise teen awareness for healthy eating habits, teen pregnancy and the dangers of not getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
The fair, which was hosted by Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, included representatives from a variety of local organizations including the South East White House, D.C. Area Education Center and Metro Teen Aids.
In addition, the District Department of Employment Services was there to sign up teens for the 2009 Summer Youth Employment Program, and the District Department of Health was on hand to provide testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia to District residents.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are the first and second most commonly reported sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2007, the CDC estimated that 2.8 million new cases of Chlamydia occur each year, and just a little over a million cases are actually reported. This means that nearly half of all new cases of Chlamydia go unreported and undiagnosed, according to the CDC.
“We provide testing for those who might be sexually active,” said Deja Robinson, an intern for the Department of Health STD Program. “We try to look out for our younger folks.”
Almost half of the 19 million new STD infections that occur each year belong to young people ages 15 to 24, according to a CDC report.
Besides the many organizations that participated in the fair, the event was co-sponsored by CVS Pharmacy, which provided free gift bags for those who attended. There were two different gift bags, one for males and another for females. Both bags contained deodorant, lotion, toothpaste and soap.
The event organizer, Quanesha Williams, talked about how she came up with idea for the fair.
“I had been to youth conferences in the past with the Boys and Girls Club and Keystone,” Williams said. “There, I could see that boys and girls could be better educated about their health.”
Reuben Hubbarb, one of the representatives from the D.C. Area Education Center, spoke on the importance of his organizations participation in the event.
“It’s important to educate D.C. residents,” Hubbarb said. “Knowledge is power, and how can you fight [diseases] if you don’t have the knowledge about the preventative steps?”
The basketball players from South East White House were cooking up pizza using the top healthy foods, according to their cooking teacher, Janean Johnston.
One player described the toppings that were being used for the one of the pizzas that he was making. “We have vegetarian pizza,” he said. “It has cheese, artichokes, olives and hot peppers.” Also, the group showed people how to make what they called Asian pizza, which had cheese, chicken, peanuts and barbeque sauce.
Reginald White said that his two sons were being mentored by two individuals working with Concerned Black Men, an organization being represented at the fair. “Anything positive is good,” White said. “I’m their football coach, too, and it’s been going pretty well for them.” Events like these are generally a positive for them, he added.
At the fair, Councilmember Wells, Naomi Mitchell, his Community Liaison, and ANC 6D Commissioner Ron McBee joined together to talk to residents and organizers. In addition, they took a moment to catch a quick bite to eat with all of those whom attended. The fair provided a free lunch, which included a portion of turkey wrap, chips and a bottle of water.
“One of my highest priorities is to see that young people are healthy,” Wells said. “I’m trying to raise awareness and talk to the youth about staying healthy and safe.”