ALERT (Abstinence Leadership, Education and Resources for Teens) is a relatively new countywide non-profit organization that is already making its presence known around the Bend.
ALERT is a health education organization, dedicated to reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by reaching the youth and families of Fort Bend County with the message of sexual abstinence until marriage. This developed through a concern that the contemporary sex education methodology is not reducing teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, sexually transmitted diseases are increasing among adolescents at an alarming rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Incorporated in 1998, ALERT was awarded a contract from the Texas Department of Health through the Title V Abstinence Education Program in January 1999. Both the George Foundation and Southwestern Bell also awarded grants to ALERT this year. A five-member board, which includes Doug Bryant, Marilyn Glover, Jim Gonzales, Lori Kuykendall, and Andy Meyers, governs ALERT. This past June the board named Marsha Leigh to the position of Executive Director. The organization is supported by an Advisory Council of community leaders. With these funds ALERT is offering a variety of programs to schools and community youth organizations that include "Wait Training" and "Aim for Success".
These programs take a fun, interactive, high-energy approach to teaching teens about abstinence. A group of trained peer educators take the message to younger students in the STARS (Students Teaching and Respecting Sexuality) program, while WINGS provides middle school students an opportunity for positive character development.
According to Marsha Leigh, the concern over teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease is at an all-time high. Professionals in the medical field are now seeing the long range effects that sexually active lifestyles are having on adolescents. The fastest spreading sexually transmitted disease among teens is HPV - a non-curable virus that causes over 95% of all cases of cervical cancer. "Fort Bend County is very fortunate to have ALERT," states Leigh. "It is my goal to see that the programs we provide to the community are utilized to the fullest. But to accomplish this goal we need the support and involvement of everyone working with teens, especially parents. We believe young people want and deserve reasons and resources to help them say "no" to sexual pressure. Please join us as we seek to help teens make healthy life choices." To volunteer, or obtain more information about ALERT, call 281-238-7659.