TV stars draw teens to abstinence session

Talent show helps lure 500

Staff WriterAugust 9, 2009 

— Television stars and a talent show attracted more than 500 Raleigh residents Saturday to the first-ever Youth Explosion, an abstinence education program that targets inner-city teens.

Nickelodeon's Lil' JJ hosted a concert and comedy routine, and Cee Cee Michaela, star of the former UPN and CW series "Girlfriends," gave a motivational speech and abstinence workshop at the Worthdale Community Center off Cooper Road.

Youth Awake, a community-based abstinence group, organized and paid for the event.

"I think most people came to hear the music and perform," said Toni Gibson, 16, of Raleigh. "But the speech was really inspirational. I think it opened a lot of people's eyes."

Michaela said she tried to emphasize the potential negative consequences of premarital sex, such as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

"A lot of students were really personal and opened up about past mistakes they have made," Michaela said. "I think it was a wonderful response, and it's good for them to talk with someone and know it's not too late to make the commitment to abstinence."

Youth Awake organizes neighborhood events in Wake, Orange, Durham, Nash and Edgecombe counties, said Vernita Griffith, the group's program director. Though most of the events are on a smaller scale, Griffith said Youth Explosion exceeded her expectations.

"A lot of parents love this program," she said. "They wish they would have been exposed to something similar when they were growing up."

Terrell Perry, 19, of Raleigh, said most of those in attendance live nearby and walked to the event when they heard the music start at about 10 a.m.

Residents sang country, rap and rock songs, and danced before three judges who awarded cash prizes to the best performers. or 836-4952

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