This month we are featuring anonymous courageous teenagers that reach out for help accessing sexual health resources. They exist in our very neighborhoods and communities. They are strong and smart and brave. Here are their stories; and we need to hear them. This is the reality for teens in our valley.
Jennifer’s Health Teacher reached out to me because Jennifer remembered when I came in to teach students sexual health education for six full days, part of which was how to access sexual health care in Eagle County. Jennifer did not recall the name of the clinic, but she did remember that I had told the students they could call me at any time for help. She was extremely scared. Unfortunately, some parents are not able to talk to their teens about sex and may even punish them for bringing it up. These teens are left searching for a trusted adult. Knowing who to reach out to for resources is an essential skill, especially when parents are not viewed as that trusted adult. These teens are plentiful all over the country, and in our community, and they are starving for accurate information. Jennifer was able to get all of the information she needed, and was supported by various trusted adults along the way. Jennifer was 5 weeks pregnant, and was able to visit with a doctor and was provided all of the appropriate services plus counseling.
One of Jennifer’s best friends, Maria was a constant source of support during this stressful time. A few weeks later, Maria reached out to me for information. She felt that she needed access to Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC). I helped her to make an appointment at the Title X Family Planning Clinic, and found help in the community to provide transportation for her as well. She was able to talk to a medical provider in private, and make decisions about her sexual health. These are skills: decision-making and goal-setting and these skills apply to all aspects of a teen’s life.
Larissa woke one Sunday morning, and was confident that she was pregnant. She was paralyzed with fear in every part of her body. She vaguely remembered the sexual health education that she received at school, and knew that she needed support. Similarly, she called me for support having remembered the sexual health information provided in her health class. The very next day, she was at the clinic and was provided with comprehensive services and support.
Comprehensive sex education is just as important as reading, writing and mathematics for healthy life outcomes. We are starting these difficult discussions because we want teenagers to be empowered with knowledge about their bodies and understand the role of sexual health in their lives so they can make well-informed reproductive decisions.
Healthy sexuality is an important aspect of development and students should have opportunities to learn about their bodies, practice safety and understand outcomes associated with sexual behavior. Schools are the optimal place for sharing this information because we can meet students where they are—in the classroom. Discussing these issues in school has the potential to normalize a topic that is often considered taboo. Given that most people will be sexually active at some point in their lives, education that provides early, accurate information on the topic of human sexuality has the potential to encourage healthy sexual practices and change the way we view sex and sexual development in the broader society. A round of applause for teens that seek out trusted adults when in crisis; and any teen searching for help, we are here for you.
Denise Kipp, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Education, Mountain Youth www.mountainyouth.org
Executive Director, Red Ribbon Project www.redribbonproject.org