At Planned Parenthood, we believe that teens, regardless of gender or sexual expression, have the basic right to pursue comprehensive sexual health information without fear, shame or exploitation. Through the teenREACH program, cohort members work with PPGC’s professional health educators to become trained peer health educators and advocate for comprehensive sex education in their communities.
Here is one cohort member’s experience about her time in teenREACH --
Standard Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast [PPGC] email blasts led me to teenREACH (I was on every mailing list possible, and still am). The premise was unique – providing Houston teens with age-appropriate, medically accurate information through their own peers ages 14-19, who receive 50+ hours of training with Planned Parenthood. Advocating for comprehensive sexual health education as a means to lower the teen pregnancy rate. When I received my acceptance, I immediately replied with, “When is the first meeting?”
Over the course of our teenREACH training, we learned about a variety of topics –birth control, talking to your partner, STIs, healthy relationships, and so on. Before we could present to our peers in the community, we first had to teach each other. So we gave mock presentations. Created posters. Practiced at home. As a result, our friends and family at home were quickly drawn into our work. I distinctly remember my first PRIDE parade, my new Houston friends (and my dog, Asparagus) adorned in rainbow and PPGC gear marching proudly through Houston, throwing condoms into the crowd.
teenREACH undoubtedly inspired positive growth. Standing in front of people you don’t know and talking about subjects that could be awkward and uncomfortable will do that! We had to take questions. We walked through protestors. We were taking on roles in our communities that required maturity and our personal best.
The eight of us in Cohort 1 started as strangers and became fast friends. We were united in a desire to change our community through the better. Boxes of pizza and tacos (Houston has the BEST tacos) strewn about, we talked life, presentations, and our latest knowledge acquisitions. Saturdays were teenREACH days. Witnessing future cohort members take the training we began and leap further has been inspiring. teenREACH educators are knowledgeable, mature, and able to provide essential sexual health education to their peers.
Graduation came all too soon, and my first year in college (Georgia Tech, Biomedical Engineering) has passed. teenREACH is what led me to this day and gave me the skills needed to excel in the future. I would not have dreamed of entering a health related field without my time at Planned Parenthood, and I talked extensively about my teenREACH training during college interviews. The support, commitment to medically accurate information, and kindness shown to me at PPGC played a large role in why I chose return this summer to intern at Planned Parenthood. Through my internship, I am able to continue my advocacy for comprehensive sexual health education and put into practice the skills I learned during my time in teenREACH.
Kyra Halbert-Elliot is a member of the 2017-2018 teenREACH cohort and an education intern at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. For more information about teenREACH and to join the program, please click here.