Largest Crowd Ever for TeenSpeak 2011

Former Planned Parenthood counselor Linda Couri at TeenSpeak 2011 [Photo by Sam Scheidler ]

“Awesome!” “Really and truly a great experience!” “I loved it!”

These are just some of the comments that sum up the reaction of the 140 teens and adults who attended TeenSpeak 2011 on January 29—the largest crowd we’ve ever had at a TeenSpeak conference!

The day began with a fascinating talk by former Planned Parenthood counselor Linda Couri entitled “The Choice Driven Life”. With a unique perspective as a former abortion industry insider, Linda shared how she first got involved with Planned Parenthood out of a well-intentioned sense of compassion for women, but one that she later realized was deeply misguided. Now completely pro-life, Linda has come back to the Catholic faith, and now works with Project Rachel, the Church’s post-abortion ministry.

The audience loved Linda’s talk. Chloe Smith, a senior at Glenbard East High School, commented that it was “so interesting being able to hear about what goes on in the head of someone who worked at Planned Parenthood.” Sadie, a sophomore at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, said, “She was so honest and humble. I admire her courage in talking to us.”

The next speaker was “Mark” — a pro-life medical student who attended the Medical Students for Choice conference held in Lombard, Illinois in December 2010.

In his talk, titled “Pro-Life Undercover,” Mark explained that the whole purpose of the MSFC conference was to get “pro-choice” medical students to consider becoming actual abortion providers, because the abortion industry is having such a hard time recruiting doctors to perform abortions.

This point was illustrated, he pointed out, by an abortionist who spoke at the conference, who even admitted that “without providers, abortion may as well be illegal.”

Mark also spoke about the attitude of “radical tolerance” that so many of the conference attendees had, almost as if they were competing against each other to see who could be the most non-judgmental about anything and everything. During one session, for example, he reported that a majority of medical students saw nothing particularly wrong with a woman having fifteen (15) abortions, or with a woman who wanted to have an abortion because she was concerned about how she would look at the beach if she were pregnant.

This was Mark’s first public speaking experience since infiltrating the MSFC conference, and he was very well received. Nathan, a high school senior, spoke for many others when he said, “What Mark had to say was extremely interesting. I loved it.”

After lunch, some clips were shown highlighting the pro-abortion propaganda in the recent MTV special No Easy Decision. But as I pointed out at TeenSpeak, the episode ultimately failed in its attempt to put a happy face on abortion.

Next, my co-worker Matt Yonke gave a short talk titled, “Pushing the Right Buttons,” in which he explained the principles of design that go into making a good pro-life button. Matt’s talk served as a great jumping-off point for TeenSpeak’s Pro-Life Button Workshop.

Pro-life button designs created by groups at TeenSpeak 2011 [Photo by Sam Scheidler]

Attendees were divided into 20 groups, and each group was given two circle templates, a pencil, a set of markers, and 40 minutes to create their own pro-life button design. To ramp up the competition factor, the teams were told that the winning design would be turned into a professionally made 2.25″ button by ChristianShirts.net, and that everyone who attends next year’s conference (TeenSpeak 2012) will receive one.

The competition proved stiff, but in the end the judges selected this attention-getting design by Jamie Ascenzo, Daniel Lyter, Nathan Ptak, Kevin Hamilton, and Billy Cheely, as the winner.

Last but not least, the TeenSpeak Essay Contest winners were announced: Second place went to Joey Pontarelli of Spring Grove, and First Place went to Victoria Holmen of Wheaton. (Look for their essays to be posted later this week.)

We were thrilled that so many teens have given us thoroughly positive feedback on the conference and have said they’re really looking forward to next year.

So am I!


  • See a slideshow of pictures from TeenSpeak here.
  • Order copies of Linda Couri’s and Mark’s talks here.
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