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Kay Kiefer, RN, Project director, Make a Sound Choice, FirstChoice Clinic, Fargo, Letter: Make Sound Choice an excellent program

Recently a North Dakota student wrote this about her experience with the "Make a Sound Choice" positive youth development program: "I was in a relationship where sex was almost a must for the guy, and I did it just to make him happy. My decision ...

Recently a North Dakota student wrote this about her experience with the "Make a Sound Choice" positive youth development program: "I was in a relationship where sex was almost a must for the guy, and I did it just to make him happy. My decision changed my life forever, and I became pregnant. Now, I am choosing to say no to this stuff to make myself more emotionally happy. Your information helped a lot."

The federally funded "Make a Sound Choice" program in Fargo provides North Dakota teens like the one quoted above with a clear and consistent message regarding the benefits of delaying sexual activity.

Our program teaches teens the principles of self-restraint, goal setting and long-term commitment - in short, it provides students with the skills required to establish healthy relationships and strong marriages.

This program is presently in 38 North Dakota schools and is growing. The program is evaluated by a team of independent evaluators from North Dakota State University. Preliminary evaluation results indicate that we are reaching the high benchmarks we have set for the program.

The results have shown substantial changes in student attitudes and knowledge in areas targeted by the program - the hope of long-term reduction in adolescent sexual activity is not just a dream anymore.

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Any program that can show a 75 percent positive impact is doing much good - yet the "Make a Sound Choice" program is reaching an impact of more than 90 percent.

Information can and does change behavior. Look at successful educational programs on smoking cessation. The key in affecting healthy behavior change is to partner information provided with why it matters and how it can ultimately affect the individual. That is what abstinence education programs in a positive youth development model provide.

Our organization remains confident that sharing this messaging with students - about goal setting, self-control, healthy relationships and character building - is overwhelmingly the best health message to give them. Our confidence is backed by solid evaluation and anecdotal information that we receive from adults and students alike.

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