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MATURE helps teens form healthy relationships
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 Juvenile Court Judge and Mrs. Billy Waters and Pastor and Mrs. Gary Brown were honored on March 15 as marriage of distinction couples and served on a panel at the second annual Marriage Legacy Banquet sponsored by the MATURE Project (Marriage Appreciation Training Uplifting Relationship Education).

 Married since 1974, the Waters attribute their healthy marriage to being respectful to each other as a spouse partner and friend, keeping the lines of communication open and sharing each other's interests. The Browns, married since 1980, also identified communication as a key factor, have grown closer by being in prayer together and separately and stayed involved as a family.

 Rockdale Medical Center is the fiscal manager of the $2.5 million grant awarded to the MATURE Project over a five-year period by the Administration of Children and Family of the Department of Health and Human Services.

 "The mission of the MATURE Project is to equip adolescence to form healthy friendships now and healthy marriages and families in the future," said Project Director Phillippia (Flip) Faust. "Since 1999, we have provided health services out of Rockdale Medical Center in terms of abstinence education. In 2003, we received a grant to go into Newton, Rockdale and DeKalb County public schools to teach healthy relationships, communication and listening skills, conflict resolution and financial management."

 The program trains and certifies relationship educators in marriage education curriculum to teach in public schools, group homes, community settings and juvenile court systems. The objective is to decrease sexual activity, unwed births and dating violence among teens; to strengthen skills necessary to form and sustain healthy relationships; and to increase public awareness of the benefits of a healthy marriage.

 Selected students with at least a 3.0 grade point average who are recommended by three people in the community as articulate, outstanding leaders serve as peer educators (PEERsuaders).

 Gabrielle Fulmer was awarded $300 as first place winner in the Marriage Celebration Essay Awards Contest.

 "Saving myself for marriage is my greatest gift because purity is fragile and beautiful and easily lost, stated the eighteen-year-old Newton County student in her essay. "It has been entrusted to me and I may do with it what I please. However, how can I be of worth to my husband when I have given my worth away to another? What will I have to give him if not my purity?"

 The MATURE Project serves 3,000 students a year and sponsors six events to promote community awareness. The public is invited to attend a tri-cultural mock wedding to celebrate with authentic ceremonies, music, dress and cuisine of Asian, African and Hispanic heritage at the Rockdale Auditorium located at 901 Main Street in Conyers on April 19 at 6:00 p.m.

For more information, call 770-918-3296.