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Health fair offers teens options

May 21, 2011

Inaugural event aids city’s growing number of homeless teenagers

Daryl Carter, far right, of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, speaks to youths during a teen health fair at Gateway Technical College Saturday.The inaugural event provided free assessments, information and other materials to teens. ( BRIAN PASSINO )




You could have learned something new at each booth of the first annual Health Fair for Teens on Saturday.


For example:

Patricia Gonzales, 19, didn’t know of programs about teen pregnancy, dental health and dealing with domestic violence Carlos Coopwood, 16, found out how tobacco companies often target young smokers by making their products sound and taste like candy.


“And that’s certainly not good for you,” said Coopwood, a Bradford High School freshman who was among the visitors to the event on Gateway Technical College’s Kenosha campus.


Promotes good health


The fair was the first hosted by Walkin’ In My Shoes, 2211 50th St., a homeless teen assistance program, and co-sponsored by the Kenosha Community Health Center. The gathering aimed to promote good health among adolescents and young adults.


Some of the exhibits dealt with abstinence, mental and physical health, resolving conflicts, eye care, HIV/AIDS, hygiene, self-image, drugs and alcohol, bullying and teen parents. Booths were operated by approximately 16 community organizations.



Homeless teens rising


Jo Wynn, Walkin’ founder and fair organizer, said the fair grew out of a dramatic increase in the number of homeless teens asking for help at the Walkin’ office. She said there were five teens in 2006, 21 in 2008 and more than doubles that, at 51, in 2009. There were 53 last year.


Most of them attend school or work but have no place to live, she said. Almost all were kicked out of their families for one reason or another when they became 18.


“Some of these teens who’ve been kicked out of the house have 4.0 grade point averages and want to work,” she said. “But they have a lot of personal hurt and anger that needs to be addressed.”


The fair introduced young people to groups that can help with those and other problems, Wynn said.


Offered self-help options


Teens participating in the health fair were given self-help assessment forms and asked to visit each of the exhibits to learn about each organization’s services. If the forms indicated a need for medical help, Wynn planned to refer them to the Health Center or other appropriate agency on Monday.


Some teens come to the Walkin’ site with diabetes, drug addictions, blood disorders and rotten teeth, she said.


“They’re looking for us to help them,” she said.


Wynn said the event would help young people and the rest of society.


“We want young people to get involved in their own health care, and this will lead to them being educated as to social services available to them,” she said, noting that plans are for holding the fair at the new Boys and Girls Club next year.


“We are changing the world here.”

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Last Modified: 12/06/2011