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Letters to the editor — Sunday (10-26-14)

Teen choices  worth celebrating

North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate hit a record low for the sixth consecutive year and is now 67 percent lower than when it peaked in 1990. Our Rowan County community can join the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Council of N.C. in the celebration of this accomplishment.

Over the years, not only have we invested in accurate and age-appropriate information and education to helps teens make responsible choices, but we have also provided education and support to teen parents to stay in school and graduate and develop their parenting skills so their little ones will grow up healthy.

Families First initiated pregnancy prevention education in the schools more than 20 years ago and continues to support teen parents to be successful while improving the quality of life for themselves and their little ones. In 1996, we joined hands with the Rowan County United Way, which provided funding support to focus on teen pregnancy prevention and great outcomes for our teen parents, and together — 18 years later — we are celebrating great outcomes.

For the past four years, 100 percent of our teen parent seniors have graduated from high school, and 64 percent of those graduates went on to continue their education. The United Way even helps sponsor scholarship support for those teen moms and teen dads to attend college.

So as we pause to celebrate, let’s stop and thank the United Way for its foresight and support that kept us focused on addressing this issue. Better yet, we’re in the middle of our Rowan County United Way campaign – so grab your checkbook and support the Rowan County United Way. Families First couldn’t provide the services we offer without their partnership. Raised Here – Stays Here – Shared Here.

— Jeannie Sherrill


In our backyard?

In Dukeville, right next to the Duke Energy Buck Steam Station, well water sampling of 13 wells in May showed contaminant levels well above the acceptable levels for heavy metals. The majority of wells sampled were over 50 times the maximum level set by California for hexavalent chromium (think Erin Brockovich). This is an overlooked issue in the overall reporting of coal ash. People have to obtain outside water for their everyday needs. Many don’t shower, wash their hands, cook or wash dishes with their well water. Many have suffered chronic health effects over the years, including cancer.

A study reported in the New Yorker years ago tried to explain the cancer cluster in the Dukeville area, but the scientists concentrated on the power lines and did not test the water. People across the country need to know this is happening in our own backyard, something N.C. Sen. Gene McLaurin has been championing.

It’s easy to think about water contamination in a different country, but what about right here at home? How is it possible that American citizens are not provided the human right to safe, clean, drinking water? It’s time to provide uncontaminated water to all who live near a coal ash pond.

— Elizabeth Burton


Teens and alcohol

The dedicated men and women serving in our military are just a small portion of their peer population. In fact only ½ of 1 percent of the population serves in the armed forces at any one time. Remove those older than 21, mostly career orientated members, and you have far less than .05 percent of teens serving at any time who might be denied the privilege to indulge in a behavior that can be toxic during the teenage years when the brain is still under construction and is more sensitive to the toxic effects of drugs and alcohol even without abuse. Several scientific studies support this opinion:

• One study at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) compared the brain scans of teens that drink with the scans of teens that do not. The team of neuroscientists found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of the teens that drank. For teenagers, the effects of a drunken night out may linger long after the hangover wears off.

• Another study at the UCSD found abnormal functioning in the hippocampus (a key area for memory formation) in teen binge drinkers. These teens did more poorly on learning verbal material than their non-drinking counterparts.

• A third study, based on my personal observations as a 20-year-Navy/Marine veteran, strongly suggests that you would not want to be in a bar with a bunch of drunken adolescents submarine sailors.

In addition to the above studies that found evidence of alcohol induced neurobiological changes in adolescent brains, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) sponsored a study that found that more than 25,000 lives have been saved in the U.S. and continues to prevent injuries and death by decreasing adolescent driver crashes by an estimated 16 percent thanks to the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age law. (madd.org/underage-drinking/why21).

— Chuck Hughes




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