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Education Reporter

Illinois Group Rewards Teen Essayists on Abstinence
Daniel Shallcross and Miss America 2003 Erika Harold
Daniel Shallcross and Miss
America 2003 Erika Harold
More than 300 Illinoisans gathered on April 29 at the Westin O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont to celebrate the winners of Project Reality's "Teens Speak Out" essay contest and to show their support for abstinence education. Among those present were representatives from more than a dozen Chicago and suburban schools, the Illinois Department of Human Services, several area health departments, and state legislative offices. Miss America 2003 Erika Harold delivered the keynote address and presented the contest prizes.

In mid-March, Project Reality launched a statewide essay contest asking teens to share their thoughts on the positive effects of abstinence. From the more than 150 entries submitted, first-, second- and third-place winners were selected, four students were recognized with honorable mentions and one student received the "most creative" award. Cash prizes ranging from $50 to $750 were given and all the winners shared their essays with the audience. The essays can be read online at www.projectreality.org.

"Abstinence can go much deeper than just a method of birth control," wrote the first-place winner, Daniel Shallcross, 17, of McHenry, IL. "A self-controlled and mature human being decides not to take part in sex before marriage to illustrate how much love he or she has for one other person on this earth."

"It's so encouraging to see such a large group of young people so supportive of the message of abstinence," said Libby Gray, director of Project Reality. "These teens are excited about abstinence and are making healthy decisions that they are proud to share with others."

Project Reality, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, has been a pioneer in the national field of adolescent health education since 1985. Funded in part by a grant through the Illinois Department of Human Services, Project Reality specializes in the development, teaching and evaluation of abstinence programs in the public schools. Project Reality serves elementary, middle and high school students, youth groups and parents with their abstinence and character education programs such as Game Plan, Navigator, I Can Do That! and Parent Power.

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