The Words of the Urban Family
Six years after they started a small nonprofit to promote abstinence education in Washington, long-overdue credit will be granted to Unificationists Richard and Stacey Urban, whose nonprofit, ULTRA Teen Choice, will lead the fourth celebration of Abstinence Awareness Week in Washington, DC, from March 8 to March 14, 2009.
Washington youth, including Howard University students, will speak out at a forum on March 9 at the Howard University School of Business Auditorium, at Georgia Avenue and Fairmont St. NW, Washington, DC, from 6 pm to 9 pm. The topic of the youth forum is “Marriage and Family Matter: Abstinence is a Core Strength of the Community.” Recording artist Angelia Robinson, who performed at the Global Peace Festival, will perform “It Ain’t Goin’ Down” at the forum Additionally, Diane Sims-Moore of Families First DC and Kenny Barnes of Root, Inc., will speak, and a parent panel will voice the support and concerns of parents regarding sexual abstinence. Community service organizations will display information and provide educational information.
ULTRA Teen choice is working to provide a voice for about half of the youth in Washington, DC, who have never had sexual intercourse, as well as for those who decide to make a fresh start. With its lopsided emphasis on promoting condoms and so-called “safer sex,” Washington, DC, still has the highest rates of both new HIV infections and existing HIV infections in the nation. Richard and Stacey have worked diligently to show a better way forward for the youth of Washington, DC.
ULTRA (Urban Life Training and Reality Assessment) Teen Choice was founded in 2002 by the Urban couple, who always have had a heart for community service, and especially for helping young people to be successful in abstaining from sex before marriage, and from drugs and alcohol.
Richard and his colleagues have reached out to some 3,000 Washington, DC, youth in the past six years with programs on HIV/AIDS-prevention, youth-led peer-counseling, and the benefits of forming “accountability relationships” with college mentors and adults.
Most recently, ULTRA Teen Choice teamed up with Pilgrim Baptist Church in Northeast Washington to serve 50 youth with the Healthy-Intimate-Personal-Relationship-Education Program. The program was funded by a grant from the National Center for Fathering and the DC Healthy Marriage and Relationships Coalition (now Families First DC); it ran from July until December 2008, with accountability relationships still ongoing. The average weekly attendance was about 15 youth. In total, 24 weekly sessions were provided. Fourteen youth were matched with adult accountability partners, and that relationship is ongoing.
Topics included HIV prevention, counseling on resisting peer pressure and learning assertive skills, relationship skills, financial literacy and a theological perspective on the human fall. Lectures on “true family values” helped youth understand the real meaning of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Youth from the program who volunteered received training in order to provide peer-counseling sessions. Additionally, Co-founder Richard Urban and some youth counselors also appeared on the “Spiritually Speaking” radio program three times on Heaven 1580 AM.
A highlight of the program was a so-called partner-matching dinner to promote the idea of accountability. Youth staff from Pilgrim Baptist Church and parents volunteered to be paired with young adults seeking mentors. The mentors meet regularly to help youth keep themselves accountable for their abstinence pledges as well as to provide support and encouragement in many other ways.
Many parents are enthusiastic supporters of ULTRA Teen Choice. Michelle Hinnant-Spencer thanked ULTRA Teen Choice for involving her daughter and said that she wished there had been something like it when she was growing up. She said that her daughter has an opportunity to make things right as an adult. “I’m proud of her for making the choice to be part of this group,” she added.
Regina Wells, a grandmother, spoke of receiving mentoring and support from her own grandmother, and, as a result she remained abstinent until she was married. She added that she will now stand behind her granddaughter, Daryn’s, decision to stay abstinent before marriage.
Said one youth: “I walked into this program thinking it could teach me nothing I didn’t already know. This program has taught me things beyond my grasp of knowledge when it comes to relationships and abstinence. Coming into my teenage years, I feel I’ve been taught what to watch out for and the important 'do’s and don’ts'.” Another commented: “I feel as though this program has taught me to be a better person and better prepared for pressures on sex. It has helped me to understand why you should wait.”
ULTRA Teen Choice has developed a training manual and DVDs to help individuals, schools, churches and organizations to replicate the program in other states. Mrs. Ella Byrne of Seattle, Washington, is the new director of the Northwest Chapter of ULTRA Teen Choice. Mrs. Byrne has initiated a “Pure Love” essay contest that will be administered in Seattle and other cities throughout the country.
To get involved in the forum event at the Howard University School of Business Auditorium on March 9th, or to find out more about ULTRA Teen Choice, visit www.ultrateenchoice.org or call (202) 558-5550.
Written by Richard Urban, co-founder of ULTRA Teen Choice