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Teenagers face up to `deadly consequences'

were brought home to teenagers attending the eighth annual Youth to Youth conference this holiday weekend.

Memories of recent fatal road crashes involving youths and the October 30 nightclub shooting of Jermaine Lovell, 16, and Ian DeSilva/Simmons, 19, who is still in hospital, were very much alive in the minds of many of the teens.

Several of the 200-plus teenagers who attended were reduced to tears at a workshop entitled "deadly consequences''.

In what Youth to Youth coordinator Mrs. Judith Burgess described as a "sobering exercise'', a real wooden coffin was carted into the Mount St.

Agnes Academy auditorium.

Teens were asked to write down on a piece of paper if they knew anyone who: had seen a real gun, abused drugs, had multiple sex partners and/or pack-raced. They were then asked to put the pieces of paper into the coffin.

"Many thought it was gruesome, but a 16-year-old has been shot in Bermuda.

It's not a joke,'' Mrs. Burgess said. "I feel we have to get it across that we are a prevention group.'' The exercise was conducted by Police Community Relations Officer Sgt. Roseanda Jones and social worker Mr. Nelson Bascome MP.

Other workshops at the three-day conference, called Bridging the Gap, included Above the Law -- to address youth crime, Money, Money, Money, Media Image, Conflict Resolution, Ganja University, Sex Me Up and In Aids of Life.

The Rev. Ronald Smith got an earful in the sex workshop in which a teen told him flatly: "It's all young people think about nowadays.'' "Guys want to get known -- strike the most leg,'' one teenaged boy said.

Mr. Smith worked to explode the myth among the teens that sex was always a "big wonderful, beautiful thing''.

Both young men and women had "terrible'' sexual experiences, he said.

Mr. Smith stressed being open in their relationships with the opposite sex.

"Don't be afraid to tell a guy that you like him for companionship but you don't want to be involved sexually.'' He also stressed abstinence until marriage, saying neither men or women wanted a partner who had no respect for him or herself.

In the AIDS workshop, despite high awareness of AIDS and how it is transmitted, STAR director Mrs. Carolyn Armstrong worked to dispel beliefs that birth control pills and the diaphragm were protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

She added: "If AIDS hasn't affected you, I want you to know it will.'' The conference was opened on Thursday by motivational speaker Mr. JeVon Thompson who has appeared on numerous US television talk and news show and in his profession as a drummer, has performed with Mick Jagger and Marvin Gaye.

He lost a brother to a heroin overdose.