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Kids Say "I Do" to No Sex

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On a recent Saturday afternoon Jasonté Lloyd, 24, ducks into the trendy Bistro Twenty-Seven on Broad Street to celebrate the anniversaries of her first and second weddings.

Her most recent wedding, last April, was a quiet courtroom affair, after which the happy couple caught a screening of Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse" thriller, dined on popcorn and hot dogs, and congratulated themselves on starting married life debt-free.

The first time Lloyd was a bride, though, was eight years earlier in a mock wedding, where she promised to remain a virgin until she was married. (She won the right to play the bride by winning an essay contest on abstinence.)

The mock wedding is the signature program of For You I Will, a local youth outreach organization run by husband-and-wife team Nichole and Stafford Armstead. It teaches young people about abstinence and self-respect.

Lloyd's here to see another mock wedding unfold. Behind a glass partition in the restaurant, 11-year-old Kelsey Richardson exhales, clutching a bouquet, while Stafford Armstead announces to the two dozen mock wedding attendants that the ceremony is about to start.

Richardson wears a pink dress and pink flats and approaches the lectern in front of the bar, where her mock husband and mock best man, 10-year-old twins Demonté and Kemondré Greene, wait in matching pinstripe suits.

The Armsteads have the children repeat a vow to stay abstinent and make positive decisions about their future, and then seal the deal with a hug.

A pair of studies released last year -- one of them commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that drew data from a program in Powhatan County — suggested that abstinence-only programs weren't getting youth to wait any longer for sex than regular sex-ed programs were.

And never mind the irony of preaching no sex before marriage and then fake-marrying preteens.

No, the Armsteads say the mock weddings give kids a positive, hands-on experience to carry with them. Besides, the program doesn't focus on abstinence only. Topics such as self-esteem, maturity and good communication replace conversations about catching VD and the wrath of God.

So did Lloyd remain a virgin until marriage?

"Ha ha ha ha, no," she says, but the experience taught her to "treasure yourself before sharing with someone else," and now she has a husband who sends her flowers for no reason.

At Bistro Twenty-Seven, after the kids repeat their vows, Stafford Armstead looks out into the small audience and says that seeing Lloyd there — a real bride eight years after being a mock bride — drives home the importance of what he's doing.

"It's really hitting me now," he says, his eyes watering.





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