By: Jenifer Manzo

As a freshman, in college, if you had told me I would spend over a year of my life teaching Risk Avoidance to kids in middle and high school, I probably would have thought you were crazy (I couldn’t even say the word “sex” back then! It’s true, just ask my friends). That being said, I wouldn’t trade these last 15 months for the world! Sure I’d rather not walk into Wal-Mart and be identified as “the Sex Lady” (be honest, you wouldn’t either), but the lessons I’ve learned and the kids and budding young adults I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know have been well worth all the awkward moments.

If there’s one thing I’ve tried to make sure my students understand, it’s that I will always be honest with them, even when it is hard. So in keeping with that, I can honestly say that I’m struggling with the words to say goodbye. I want to leave you with something that will encourage you, something that when you’re having a bad day, you can look back at these words and remember that you are special and that there are people in this world who care about you and the success of your future.

There are four things I want you to remember:

-          First: You are a unique individual who has talents and abilities that are unlike any other person on this planet. To quote… well myself J “Never ever, EVER, let anyone tell you that you can’t become the person you want to be!” I know I have said it countless times, but it is true, and I need to say it one more time before I go. If you’ve heard any part of my story you know that my life is evidence of someone beating the odds and reaching her goals and dreams. If I can do it, so can you! So keep fighting to be the person you want to be even if others doubt your ability. Remember that both myself and the staff here at the Women’s Care Center believe in you and are here to help you.

-          Second: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s a part of us as humans that long for independence and a thing that rises up inside saying “I got this! I can do it on my own.” But if I’ve learned anything on this crazy, rocky-road journey, it’s that as much as I want to, I can’t do it on my own. There are people out there who know WAY more about life than I do, and if I’m smart I’ll learn from both their successes and failures. After all, no one wants to make mistakes that can be avoided. Right? So the best way to do that is by watching, learning from, and asking questions of those who have a few (or maybe quite a few) years on you. Believe me. You’ll learn so much! Sure, you’ll make your own mistakes, but you will also be able to avoid a lot of mistakes by seeking the advice of those who have already been through the muck.

-          Third, true love is self-less. It never says “Baby, if you love me you will… (buy me a present, have sex with me or whatever else follows those words)”. That is called manipulation. And if a girl, or guy, ever says those words to you, do yourself a life-long favor: RUN (and don’t go back). True love, the kind we all long for, says “I want what is best for you, even if that means I don’t get what I want.”

-          Fourth, I wouldn’t be “the Sex Lady” if I didn’t tell you one last time: Trust me when I say “you won’t die if you wait until you are married to have sex.” (I’ve waited, a LOT of my friends have waited, and we’re still living, breathing, normal human beings). Don’t believe the lie people will tell you, that everyone is having sex before marriage and that you’re the only one not having sex. Over 50% of American teens are choosing to wait until they are married so you are not alone in your decision. Now for those of you who have already had sex: Remember you are still a person of value who deserves to be loved and respected. Never forget that you can always make a different choice. Here’s a question: Just because you made a bad decision yesterday, does that mean you have to make the same decision today? As with anything in life, whether it be lying, stealing, cheating on that math test, and yes, even having premarital sex, you can always make a different choice. Your past decisions don’t define your future. There may be consequences as a result of those actions, but they don’t get to define you.

 

I get so frustrated with adults who tell my students that because they have had sex before marriage, once (or even more than once) that they are destined to have sex again and again. Actually, I get more than frustrated, I get down-right angry. See, here’s the thing. I’ve taught over 1500 students in this last year and not one of them has wet themselves in my class. It’s true. If one of them has to use the restroom, they raise their hand and ask, or they hold it. It is called self control and we as humans have the ability to control our urges. The same thing applies to sexual urges. You, as a human being, have self control. To say that teens, or even adults, cannot control themselves sexually is to reduce them to an animal. Rabbits for example cannot control themselves. They make more rabbits because that is what they are supposed to do; they can’t help it. But you are not a rabbit, or dog or any other animal. You have a will and the power of self control. Don’t think of yourself as less than human by believing the lie that you can’t control yourself. (ok lecture over)

I want each of you to know that you’ve played a special role in my life. I have learned from you the importance of being real and honest. You challenged and questioned me and it has only made me a better person. I wish each of you the best and know that you will always have someone rooting for you here on the side lines (or from way over the ocean in Zambia, Africa).

Check out this song by my favorite band Tenth Avenue North  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwtcwQwgdsA )  and remember this: You are more than the choices you have made! You are a special, unique individual who has talents and abilities unlike any other human being.

With all my love,

 

Jenifer