By Mary Miller Cullins
President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed, together with Alderwoman Marlene Davis and Alderman Shane Cohn, presented the Walgreens Expressions Challenge initiative with a resolution from the City of St. Louis for corporate leadership in teen health education awareness. The 2011 Expressions Grand Prize Winner, Virgil Fuller, was on hand as well to receive a medal of recognition. The Walgreens Expression Challenge (Expressions), sponsored by Walgreen Co., is a contest established to engage high school teens ages 14 to 18 in the conversation about healthy choices for their future through creative expression. The Expressions Challenge is held in St. Louis and Chicago, and to date has reached more than 500,000 teens! The Expressions Challenge has awarded close to $100,000 in cash and prizes to winners, entrants, teachers, schools, and organizations.
“Our goal is to elevate the conversation,” said John Gremer, director of community relations for Walgreen Co. “One of the biggest contributors to these teen health epidemics is communication. Studies continually show teens have challenges discussing sexual health with parents, teachers and other adults. Through this initiative, we’re giving them a safe and engaging place to talk about the challenges they face when making healthy sexual decisions and then the opportunity to be rewarded for it. This program matters a great deal to us, because it supports our commitment to prevention and early detection on many health challenges facing our community,” Gremer added.
Initiatives such as the Expressions Challenge and Virgil’s contribution to sexually transmitted disease (STD) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) awareness are of great significance. In St. Louis, youth ages 15 to 24 years old are the highest at risk for STD and STI, according to a 2010 St. Louis Department of Public Health report. This age group is the highest at risk for STDs/Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and untreated infections could lead to future infertility.
“Walgreens cares about the people and that’s critical,” Alderwoman Davis expressed during her keynote address at the Resolution Ceremony. “The Expressions Challenge program is critical because it does not leave anyone out. It merges the talents of students through art, poetry, photography, graphic design, and other art forms to address the real issues teens face. Youth can enter their works into the Expressions Challenge contest, use their creative expressions to speak out about teen health concerns, and win money which they can use to save for college. This program design is wonderful because it goes directly back to the students in the community.”
Virgil Fuller-Recognition of Achievement
and Member of the Mathews- Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club