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PHOTO CAPTION:  Kimberly Poovey, youth program coordinator at Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center, speaks with teens Friday at the Solomon Center as part of the Teen Summit, organized by the Fort Jackson Family Advocacy Program to prompt dialogue about the importance of healthy relationships.

October 24, 2013
By Wallace mcBride, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- There were weighty topics for discussion during last week's Teen Summit at Fort Jackson. More than 60 children, ages 12 to 17, gathered Friday at the Solomon Center to talk about issues ranging from smoking to sexual assault.

Adults were present to lead the discussions, but the forum also gave teens the opportunity to talk about these topics with each other.

"Our plan is two-fold," said Shaneen Corujo, a victim advocate for the post's Family Advocacy Program. "We're celebrating teens making positive decisions and living with confidence. But we're also having workshops explaining some of the different scenarios that kids are faced with. They're having a forum to talk about it."

Those topics included teen pregnancy and contraceptive issues, protecting yourself on social media sites, drug abuse and the mixed messages sometimes sent to teens by popular media.

"They're also talking about healthy relationships," said Corujo. "That's the basic theme we're going with for the event. We're looking at ways to develop and identify healthy relationships. Practically every topic today, in some form or fashion, highlights the benefits of healthy relationships."

Teens were split into groups for break-out sessions to review the day's topics. Leaders from agencies around the midlands attended the event to lead these topics. Among the organizations represented were the Richland County Sheriff's Office, the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Child, Youth & School Services' "Keystone Club," a Fort Jackson effort which focuses on academic success, community service, career and education.

Corujo said it wasn't difficult to get children to attend Friday's event.

"We worked with CYSS to get everything coordinated," she said. "These are topics that the children were asking for more information about. This spun off from our program about teen dating violence in February. We took from that some of the topics that seemed to be important to kids, and put them in a forum where they could talk about it."

Last week's attendance was encouraging, she said.

"The way it's going, we're planning on making this an annual event," Corujo said.