Religious leaders from the Longview area, representatives from nonprofits, parents and others addressed topics related to risky behaviors of young people at a recent panel discussion hosted by Mercy Manor.
Mercy Manor’s executive director Stephanie Fears said she hoped such gatherings could help the nonprofit group keep their program up-to-date and relevant to East Texas youth.
âOur main mission for Mercy Manor is to help people in crisis of pregnancy and to help young people and others in crisis,â said Fears. âWe would be delighted to support and help reduce the risks that lead to crisis pregnancies. We would love to work without work ourselves.
Topics varied widely among the risk factors facing young people today.
âBasically it’s a time when we can come together with those in the community to make sure the things we touch are up to date,â she said.
Fears said Mercy Manor has taught a risk avoidance program for four years through private donations. This year, the group was able to obtain a scholarship.
âThe roundtable, we are trying to reach the people most involved with young people,â Fears said, referring to the attendees. âIt reviews much of the curriculum and content taught as part of our risk avoidance program. The goal is to stay relevant and respond to the needs of what the community says they see with our youth.
At last week’s meeting, roundtable participants were divided into three groups to discuss topics on risk factors in youth, ranging from unsafe applications, entertainment, drugs, pornography, sexting, cyberbullying, fatherlessness, premarital sexual activity, dating violence, depression / suicide, teenage pregnancy. / STD and more.
Reverend Randy Ross of Impact Church in Longview said during the Fatherlessness discussion that it is important to teach young men how to be good fathers by example. White Oak Community Church pastor Davis Dusek shared how he meets a young father once a week because this man has never had a father figure to talk to.
Thrive Longview Executive Director Clent Holmes spoke about premarital sex and its effects.
“So one of the things that we have learned and that we are trying to do differently is to equip and inform young people much earlier, because they have access to information much earlier,” he said. he declares. “Lots of social media, lots of peers.”
When young people learn information from these sources, it is usually not accurate, Holmes said. Sometimes young people start experimenting out of curiosity in an unhealthy way.
“I grew up where I received a lot of direction, a lot of warnings, like in the church, but I think where the church has failed or is failing is that we let’s do a lot of ‘don’ts’, âhe said during the presentation. âWe put a lot of emphasis on why something isn’t preferred. But we don’t make a lot of equipment. As most of us know, if you just tell a child not to do something, it won’t be enough. It might even … create the opposite.
Teaching children to avoid crisis pregnancies is more complicated than just telling a child to stay sober because there are many risk factors, Fears said.
âKids, they’re smart,â Fears said. âThey just don’t have the information. We want to empower them to make good decisions.
After lunch, the groups discussed youth protective factors such as goals, dating, communication, healthy marriages, positive peer influence, resilience skills, emotional intelligence and more.
Last week’s rally was at The Landmark in downtown Longview, and the next event is set for Tyler on Thursday.
Fears said the Longview session was productive and the organization gathered a lot of information.
âWe feel like we’ve learned a few things,â Fears said. “It was our first to go, and we can’t wait to find out more.”
She hopes to have these discussions every year and looks forward to the Tyler session.
Mercy Manor uses the ESTEEM program to reach young people in schools and in the community. The program aims to help 10 to 19 year olds develop life skills. The program adheres to Texas Health TEKS.
âIt’s a local product,â says Fears. âThe author lives in Hallsville. It’s written by her with local peers who know our community.
Fears have said that funds invested in risk avoidance programs like ESTEEM are worth the investment.
Thursday’s roundtable will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn Tyler, 5701 South Broadway. RSVP by calling Tonya Waite at (903) 720-1295.