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Teen-ager brings home knowledge from Washington D.C. conference

by Merrie Leininger

A Douglas teen-ager who was chosen as one of 26 members of the youth leadership team of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said he hopes to bring to Douglas County what he learned in Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Sherwood, 16, of Ruhenstroth, said his work with the Teens with a Future and Bridging the Gap of Isolation probably got him nominated to the national project.

The first meeting of the youth leadership team was held in Washington D.C. Jan. 8-Jan. 10. Two meetings are planned annually. Each member, age 14-18, is appointed for one year.

Jonathan, a junior in high school, said he went to the first conference to satisfy his curiosity more than anything else.

“I though it would be interesting. I didn’t know anything about it,” he said.

Each member is given on teen pregnancy information and encouraged to take that information back to their communities.

Jonathan said he hopes to start a non-profit group which focuses on preventing teen pregnancy and helping teen parents, but is unsure of how to go about it so far.

“I’d like to start a workshop for the county that also targets males who are adolescent parents because a lot of programs don’t,” he said. “I want to help moms so they get the correct care and also try to prevent teen pregnancies.”

Jonathan said he wants to establish a sense of responsibility in teen-agers.

“If you think you are responsible enough to have sex, you are responsible enough to educate yourself so you will be able to live happier lives. If you protect yourself, you won’t have to worry about pregnancy or diseases,” he said.

Jonathan said his concerns also go out to the health of the children of teen-agers.

“It’s hard for growing teens who are pregnant to provide enough nutrients for their child, especially when they are trying to hide a pregnancy from their parents,” he said. “A lot of their kids have some kind of deficiency when they are born. I want to help them get good prenatal care.”

He said a lot of children of teen-agers end up being neglected because teen-age parents don’t have a full idea of the needs of the child.

“There are teens out there who want to have a baby because they need to fill a gap in them, but when they find out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, the baby doesn’t get all it needs,” he said.

n Teen center. In the meantime, Jonathan is working with Bridging the Gap of Isolation to bring a much-needed teen center to the Carson Valley.

The organization is established in rural communities to help bring in resources that only larger communities tend to have.

Jonathan said other people, who were picked because their communities or are expected to be leaders, are working together to gather resources for the teen center.

A meeting is being held Monday, Feb. 22 at the Douglas County Library for all those interested in getting a teen center for the community. It is an opportunity to bring everyone together to identify what they want.

He said a major roadblock in the process is getting adults to take them seriously.

“Adults look at teens as immature dumb kids. If they got to know us and work with us before they judge us, we would get a lot more done. I think we could change the community,” he said.

Jonathan said without the faith of Tanya Hill, director of Partnership of Community Resources, he would not be the motivated, confident person he is today.

“If Tanya hadn’t helped me, I probably would have been one of those dumb kids,” he said.

The teen community would also benefit greatly by the teen center, he said.

“Now you only see them in stereotypical groups. It would be nice if we had a teen center to bring it all together,” he said.

n Family. Jonathan credits his family for a wonderful upbringing.

He lives with an extended family consisting of cousins, a grandfather, and aunt Rennie and mom Marla. He said he admires his mom and aunt more than anyone else because they are “wise.”

“I can tell my mom anything and I may get corrected, but I don’t get yelled at,” he said. “I turned out as I am because of the great people in my life.”

His older siblings also have been big influences on his life, he said.

His sister, Elainia, 25, who became a mother as a teen-ager, now lives in Silver Springs and works for her fiance’s business. His brother, Justin, 23, is a professional ballet dancer.

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