Fantasia Barrino speaks at teen summit

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - These girls are getting words of encouragement.

"We want to make sure that we instill in you the importance of womanhood," said one of the speakers at the SOS Summit.

There were words that are meant to empower the young girls.

"We have to love each other and support each other like we're sisters, 'cause we are," said Judy Lombard, an Educator in Gulfport.

And insight on how not to become a statistic.

"It would have been a lot harder road if I would have gotten pregnant," Connie Rocko said "I'm concerned when I hear that 68 girls in Mississippi out of every 1,000 are going to be pregnant as teenagers."

The 2nd Annual Saving Our Sisters Summit was the meeting place for thousands of young teen girls, community leaders and sororities.

LaKisha Smith said, "She's getting to hear it from other women, not just me."

The central theme of the summit is prevention of teen pregnancy, but organizers also focused on other issues like what not to wear, etiquette and bullying.

"They learn a lot in school and if we don't intervene now, we're going to lose them.

While each girl received a life-time of lessons at the summit, the most anticipated lesson came from American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino.

"There were a lot of things that my mother and my grandmother tried to tell me, but I felt like I really didn't want to listen because they didn't know the new school stuff," Barrino said. "They didn't know it like I know it, and they didn't understand what I was going through. But in the end, they knew what I was going through because they had done everything that I was trying to do."

The teen mother turned superstar songstress and broadway star shared her story of rebellion, heartache and triumph.

"They knew everything that I was trying to do, and they were just trying to warn me. So that I wouldn't end up in the same situation," Barrino said. "But I didn't listen, so I ended up dropping out of school and having a child at a young age. And I thank God for my daughter, but if I couldn't have waited, I would have."

"If I could be a testimony to some of these young people and say to them, 'Yes, I've overcome a lot of things, but it was tough. It was hard.'"

Barrino had some advice for the South Mississippi's teen mothers and mothers-to-be.

"Don't give up on your dreams just because you've had a child. Still go after your dreams, and let that child be your motivation," Barrino said.

Fantasia Barrino performed at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. The 2009 Saving Our Sisters Summit was sponsored by WJZD.

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