Abstinence is for the strong

Gigi Tinsley | 3/6/2014, 9 a.m.
Abstinence Between Strong Teens International, Inc. has been around for over 20 years, educating youth on relationships, marriage and sex ...
Staff members of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International, Inc.

Abstinence Between Strong Teens International, Inc. has been around for over 20 years,

educating youth on relationships, marriage and sex from a character development perspective. It was founded by an educator, Althea McMillan, a Miami-Dade County school teacher who watched the teen pregnancy rate increase year-after-year and felt that something needed to be done beside telling the students to, “just say no.”

“She started the ABSTI Program in her living room and ran it from her home for many years. Many people thought and several told her, ‘You have got to be crazy to quit your job and do this insane program.

But she did it and if it had helped just the many students it has helped, that would be enough. But, it also

Michelle Shirley (left) Barbara Boliere (right)

Michelle Shirley (left) Barbara Boliere (right)

helped me, the now Executive Director Michelle Shirley said.

“When I came to work for McMillan, I was 26 and involved in a relationship. I thought I didn’t need any antiquated thinking people telling me what to do,” Shirley stated. “I was highly educated with a Master's degree and didn’t want to hear nothing about abstinence. But it was just something about the way everything was presented. I listened and this program changed my life. First, it was one week, then two weeks, then one year of abstinence, and as they say, the rest is history. I have been here for seven years and the last two as the CEO.”

“Just say no” is not enough

This program is “often times misunderstood for one of those “just say no” abstinence programs but we do more than that,” Shirley said.

“Yes, we encourage students and young adults to abstain from sex until marriage, but our main goal is to empower them with cognitive thinking skills that equip them to make wise decisions.”

We also offer conduct free workshops for parents, helping them learn how to build effective communication with their children in ways that research shows greatly influences youth to make positive decisions, Shirley said.

The agency works with Miami-Dade County Public schools, churches, colleges and community organizations throughout south Florida and we always look forward to strengthening the youth and families that we serve.

“Nobody has died from lack of sex, but people are dying everyday from having sex and contacting non-curable diseases,” Shirley said.

“Not only parents but churches are not teaching about relationships. Now, couples have these large, beautiful weddings and have never sat down as a couple and discussed the wedding vows. Most of them are just repeating words the minister says to them. How crazy is that?”

The ABSTI (as they refer to themselves) group is active in the community. On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the group did a Clean-Up Campaign in Perrine.

Call ABSTI at 305-969-7829, for more information.