Teen Summit Held at Resurrection Life

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Picayune Teen Court along with the Picayune Police Department rocked Resurrection Life on Friday with music, games, skits and giveaways, in a joint effort to teach local teens about drugs and teen pregnancy.

Approximately 400 teens from across the county and from as far away as Hattiesburg gathered at Resurrection Life for the Teen Court’s “Teen Summit.” Schools represented at the event included Poplarville Middle School, Poplarville High School, Picayune Junior High, Picayune Memorial High School, Hattiesburg High and Mary Bethune Alternative School of Hattiesburg.

The focus of the day’s activities was to provide an enjoyable environment while teaching today’s youths about the dangers and consequences of drugs, premarital sex and teen pregnancy.

Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke told the students, “I hope you learn a lot about making the right choices, because the choices you make can affect you for the rest of your life.”

The event was kicked off by a performance by crossover hip-hop artist J-Remy. The rapper, whose real name is Jeremy Meeks, is a Picayune native who recently released his second album, “The Backwoods Legend.” He got the crowd to its feet with his three songs, including his hype anthem “Country Boys.” He also picked several students out of the audience to dance on stage with him during his energetic set, drawing laughs and cheers from their classmates.

The event’s emcees Danny Jones, Brandon Dukes and B. J. Conrey, all of Resurrection Life, then came on-stage to pass out free T-shirts and CD’s. They hosted the first of several games that got the students involved in the activities.

Dispersed among the segments of the events were several short video public service announcements. In addition to the videos, several Picayune High School students performed a short skit on each subject being covered.

Other entertainment included Teen Court’s The Force, which is a dance group comprised of PMHS students and coached by P.C. Littles. The group has been together for three years and performs at local events.

The first of several speakers was Shawn Kosdera, also of Picayune, a former drug addict who sobered the crowd with his opening question, “How many of you have ever actually seen one of your friends o/d?” He went on to tell the room about how he started out taking drugs and alcohol, but that it finally consumed his life. The room was silent as he told of how he faced prison time or death due to overdose, but erupted in applause when he said that thanks to the help of friends he has now been clean for four years.

Brandon Dukes of Resurrection Life spoke to the students about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the family. He did not provide statistics, because he said statistics would not hit home and would not be remembered. Instead, he told stories of his friends that had been on drugs and how their lives were affected. Brandon also reminded the students that if they hurt or kill another person because of being on drugs or alcohol, that is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

“Drugs and the addiction of drugs is the biggest scourge we have.” He also told the group that “America is the most prosperous nation in the world… and according to the statistics, we consume two-thirds of the entire world’s illegal drugs,” said Alan Hickman, head pastor of Resurrection Life. Hickman said he has never done drugs, and told the students that if someone offers them drugs, they should “run, and tell them you’re an idiot while you’re running from them.”

Stephanie Hardaway spoke about the effects of teen pregnancy. She talked about how having a baby at a young age had affected her life and gave several examples of how teen pregnancy can change a young person’s life. She advised everyone to hold to the philosophy, “If you love me, you’ll wait.”

B.J. Conrey gave the students several statistics about teen sexual activity. He said, “over the course of one year, 15 out of 100 typical couples who rely on male condoms alone to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental pregnancy.” He also said that eight out of ten girls and six in 10 boys wish they had waited to become sexually active. He finished by reminding them, “It’s worth the wait.”

Danny Jones spoke about the effects of pornography and addiction to pornography. Jones works with an organization based in Michigan called XXXchurch, which works with people to overcome pornography addictions. He told students that “pornography is not reality,” and that it can be an addiction as real as drugs and alcohol.

The day ended with a drawing for a MP3 player, which was won by a student at Picayune Junior High School.

Teen Court Judge and event organizer Dawn Bechtel took the stage to thank everyone involved, including sponsors like Sam’s, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Shoney’s, and to thank Resurrection Life for allowing the use of their facilities.

When asked about future plans for the event, Bechtel said she hopes to get letters of endorsement from the participating schools and use them to prepare information to distribute in hopes of getting more schools involved next year. She would like to see the summit become an annual event, and has a goal of having more than a thousand youths at a summit next year.

If anyone would like more information about the Teen Court program or the Teen Summit, or would like to support and make a contribution to the programs, they can contact Ceasar Jones at (601) 798-0374 or Dawn Bechtel at (601) 590-5483.