Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review May 26, 1999 /11 Sivan, 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase


Tony Snow
Dr. Laura
Bob Greene
Michael Kelly
Paul Greenberg
MUGGER
David Corn
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Chesnoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg

Econophone

Best friend these girls ever had

(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
THE SCENE WAS THE KENNEDY CENTER for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The music was "Straighten Up and Fly Right" by Nat King Cole. The dancers were scores of school girls ranging in age from 9 to 18. The audience members were the parents, friends and supporters of a private program aimed at helping young girls postpone sex and reject drugs and alcohol.

So many things about this event -- the annual recognition ceremony for the abstinence program Best Friends -- seem anachronistic. Jazz? For girls of the hip hop and rap era? Dance steps that owe more to Agnes De Mille and Jerome Robbins than to Michael Jackson? Inner-city girls in long gowns? It's all part of the genius of Elayne Bennett, the program's founder. While others lamented the epidemic of illegitimacy that blighted the lives of so many inner-city kids (and millions of suburban kids as well), Bennett was able to conceive of a program that would teach traditional values and yet still manage to be hip and cool. Best Friends also does something else: It gives these girls their femininity back.

The Best Friends formula of discussion groups, individual mentoring, physical fitness, dance and cultural enrichment was offered at first to several private girls schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Though they were hardly insulated from the problems of drugs, sex and alcohol, they turned Bennett down. It took a brave principal in a mostly black middle school in Washington to say yes. And so, Best Friends was launched.

It now boasts programs in 25 cities serving 4,000 girls. An independent study conducted in 1995 found that 1 percent of Best Friends participants got pregnant before graduating from high school, compared with 26 percent of their peers, and only 5 percent of Best Friends girls had lost their virginity by 10th grade, compared with 63 percent of their peers.

Anyone can suggest teaching young girls to be abstinent. (Though in 1987, when Bennett first developed the program, the conventional wisdom had it that "preaching" abstinence was useless. "They're going to do it anyway" was the view of most "experts.") It's quite another thing to conceive of a program that will fill the empty places in the lives of young girls and imbue them with a sense of hope and possibility. It's a safe bet that the vast majority of the girls who attended the Best Friends ceremony at the Kennedy Center Opera House had never before set foot in the place, though they live only a mile or two away.

Best Friends is preachy. But it is also supportive, hard-headed, loving and fun. Here's a little secret that the '60s generation obscured for a very long time: Kids do not mind being preached at -- provided they think you have real wisdom to impart.

Through its program of peer counseling and adult mentoring, Best Friends helps youngsters understand the risks of drugs, sex and alcohol, and offers practical advice about domestic abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and other issues the girls face every day. The Best Friends handbook even provides samples of typical "lines" boys use to get their girlfriends to agree to sex.

Best Friends also introduces girls to the wider world beyond their own families and neighborhoods. They hear from successful black women like Alma Powell (also a board member of Best Friends) and broadcasters Lark McCarthy and Barbara Harrison, who have shared their life stories with the girls.

And the young women who achieve are treated like celebrities. At one point during the May 18 recognition ceremony, the curtain parted to reveal 27 Best Friends graduates who are now attending college. They were posed on a riser. Each was attired in a floor-length evening gown. With their hair piled high, and their long gloves, and the spotlights illuminating their heads like halos, they looked like Miss America contestants. And they received such a rousing cheer from the younger girls and parents in the audience that the Kennedy Center must have rocked on its foundations.

For making heroines of college girls, Elayne Bennett is herself a heroine.


JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here.


Up

05/24/99: Baby Hope continued
05/20/99: Say no to the Gore tax
05/17/99: Baby Hope
05/13/99: Other high crimes
05/10/99:Three cheers for uniforms
05/05/99: Voucher opponents' worst nightmare
05/03/99: Lessons of Columbine High
04/28/99: Kevorkian is stopped
04/26/99: "Senseless tragedy"?
04/22/99: Hey, hey, ... Bubba
04/19/99: Why we are in Kosovo
04/15/99: Hooray for the NYPD
04/09/99: How to do something about taxes
04/06/99:Can the private sector handle foster care?
03/31/99: The Flower Child goes to war
03/29/99: Foreign-policy meltdown
03/25/99: 'Just doin' it'
03/22/99: Return of pay equity?
03/16/99: St. Hillary
03/10/99: Rodney King in perspective
03/08/99: Monica's story: No morals
03/04/99: Not home but library alone:
3/02/99: Tuning our racial sensitivities
2/27/99: Cease-fire in war between sexes?
2/23/99: Where were the religious voices?
2/19/99: Depends what you mean by "acting"
2/17/99: As Minn., goes so goes the nation?
2/09/99: Prepare for post-impeachment spin
2/03/99: Teaching morality
2/01/99: What did he say?
1/26/99: The truth about the Peace Process
1/22/99: The vulgar decade
1/19/99: Was Jefferson libeled by DNA?
1/13/99: The backlash picks up speed
1/11/99: Who invented politics of personal destruction?
1/07/99: Shall we dance?
1/05/99: Try him!
12/30/98: The price of virtue
12/28/98: The gift of giving
12/22/98: Party of shame, party of shamelessness
12/18/98: Wag the country
12/16/98: Is this impeachment constitutional?
12/14/98: Republicans find courage
12/09/98: Nappy Hair and other racial slurs
12/07/98: Stranger in a strange land
12/02/98: Dangerous ground
11/30/98: Involuntary fatherhood?
11/24/98: Lies, damned lies, and sex lies
11/18/98: Another victory for cowardice
11/16/98: Separatism plus welfarism equals a dead end
11/10/98: Did conservatism lose campaign '98?
11/06/98: Democrat venality, Republican timidity
11/04/98: Are girls being shortchanged?
11/02/98: Believe the children?
10/28/98: What 'Measure 58' would do
10/26/98: The officers are bailing out
10/20/98: Using Matthew Shepard's murder
10/19/98: The school voucher that saved a family
10/14/98: Are powerful women different?
10/09/98: Can just sex be impeachable?
10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
10/02/98: Understanding the polls
10/01/98: What school texts teach about marriage
9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
8/25/98: When homework is a dirty word
8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?


©1999, Creators Syndicate