Charlottesville High School rising senior Hayley Owens is taking her effort to help people make better life choices to where it’s needed most: Congress.
“We’re going to meet with representatives and senators and talk about teen pregnancy and issues with teen mothers and ways to help teens make better decisions,” Hayley said from Washington. “We’re going to talk about some of the issues and see if we can get support.”
Hayley is not a freelance lobbyist for a better youth lifestyle. She’s a member of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s Youth Leadership Team, a 17-teen strike force recruited from across the country.
The team’s members serve an 18-month term and provide the teen point-of-view to the national campaign’s leadership, as well as to media outlets, elected officials, government agencies and anyone of influence who might listen.
The team’s first meeting began Wednesday.
“It’s pretty wild. There are two people from the Bronx and one from Arizona and more are showing up,” Hayley said. “It’s a great mix of people from different parts of the country.”
According to National Campaign officials, Hayley made the team because of her work as a peer educator and counselor with Teens Taking Action here in Central Virginia. The program is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Health Systems.
“She’s done a great job with TTA in providing peers with information about teen pregnancy and sex and making good choices,” said Stefanie Boltz, of the campaign. “The leadership team members do everything from talking with organizations to writing articles for teen magazines about making good choices.”
Her involvement means frank conversation on difficult issues from drugs to birth control to preventing sexually transmitted diseases to abstinence -- topics that, when broached by an adult, can result in adolescent cries of “ewwww, too much information!”
“That’s happened to me on occasion,” Hayley laughed. “When you’re discussing sensitive issues, you have to tailor your presentation to be appropriate to who you’re talking to. You want to provide information, but you don’t want to provide more than is age appropriate.”
Hayley, a Fluvanna County resident who chose to attend Charlottesville High School because of its architectural and design programs, started working with peers through her church, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Universalist Unitarian.
“We had very comprehensive sex education and open discussions on making decisions and I wanted to help others have that education and understanding, as well,” Hayley said. “Joining the Youth Leadership Team is part of that.”