BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Organizers of a summit geared toward preventing teenage pregnancy say it's important to talk to our children, both boys and girls, about sex. The Saving Our Sisters Summit at the Convention Center in Biloxi has only been for girls for several years. Organizers said they realized they needed to bring young men back into the conversation.
In Mississippi an alarming number of teens are already playing the role of parent in real life.
"When you look at the statistics Mississippi is number one with teenage pregnancy. So you've got to start somewhere with preventing the epidemic" said Sholanda Carr, summit volunteer.
The Saving Our Sisters Summit hopes to prevent teen pregnancies by educating young girls and boosting their self-esteem. After a hiatus, organizers decided to restart Brother To Brother a program which offers guidance to boys.
Michael Daniels is the owner of WJZD FM which sponsored the summit.
"A baby doesn't come into the world by one person so the boys have to also say 'Okay, when you impregnate a teen or impregnate a young lady you're just as responsible or you should be,'" Daniels said.
State Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes said, "If we just educated the girls and not educating the boys it's kind of defeating the purpose. So we feel it's very important for us to have the girls and the boys, both young men and young women to receive information."
Later the young people went into small group sessions divided by age and gender where they were encouraged to talk openly and ask questions.
Ebony Paschall is one of the participants. Paschall said, "It's a good way to learn about how to be a better person and how to present yourself well. They give you a lot of facts on things that you might not learn in school like in a health class. It's more specific."
"Look, we've all been kids. We tell our parents what we want them to know," said Daniels. "So they're asking questions they may feel a little uncomfortable about and it helps. "
Governor Phil Bryant also spoke to the teens. He told them the choices they make now could affect them later in life.
"Have the State of Mississippi track you down for child support. You have to drop out of school to try to pay it. Not ever get a college graduation and try to like that for the rest of your life. How many of you want that? Nobody. Why? I'm shocked. But it happens thousands of times in the State of Mississippi," said Bryant.
The governor told the young people it's difficult for him to recruit well paying high tech industries if the state doesn't have enough educated well trained workers. So he said he needs them to stay in school and graduate.