Hi there! My name is Julia Greenblatt. I am a junior in high school and I've been a part of the Get Real Teen Council for two years. In said two years, I feel that I have gotten to know the program pretty well, so I am thrilled to have the honor of sharing not only my knowledge but some of my experiences with you so that - hopefully - you can have the invaluable, life-changing experiences that I have. My humble introduction may have been enough to convince you to join this program, but just in case let’s dive a little deeper.
The Get Real Teen Council is a peer education program facilitated by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. The GRTC’s mission, according to PPLM’s super dope webpage you should definitely check out (here), is to “empower teenagers to educate their peers, families, and communities about human sexuality and healthy decision making and inspires teens to use their voices to advocate for just and positive sexual attitudes and policies.” If you’re reading this I’m going to go ahead and assume you are into advocating for “just and positive sexual attitudes and policies,” also known as comprehensive sex education, also known as accurate, unbiased, age appropriate information on sex and sexuality. But, it is possible you’re unsure if the GRTC is right for you. Thus, below are my top five reasons why YOU should apply to the Get Real Teen Council for the 2018/2019 school year.
1- Raise your voice as a young person!
We are certainly lucky to be young at at time when young people across the nation are rising up as the voices for positive change in America, but I think it can still be easy to feel powerless as a young person. As a 17 year old, not old enough to vote, I know the feeling of frustration and powerlessness even as I march for my life or women’s rights. However, as a member of the Get Real Teen Council, I have the opportunity to teach workshops that cover topics like consent, in which I literally teach high school students about consent. These feelings of powerlessness vanish when I remember that through workshops, I am taking important action. The GRTC has been the perfect platform to raise my voice; being a peer educator, the program is all about youth voices and empowering young people. If you are searching for a place that will lift your voice and give you countless opportunities to enact tangible progress toward the goal of reproductive access, look no further than the GRTC!
2- Learn about and discuss social justice topics with interested peers!
It is very possible that if you’re reading this you’re the kind of person who is already engaged in conversations about issues that are important to you, but that also means you’re probably the kind of person who would like to do that every Tuesday or Thursday night with high school students from your area. Being a member of the GRTC is a time commitment; the Boston program meets every Thursday from 6:00-8:30 and Central MA meets at the same time on Tuesdays to learn workshops, plan/prepare for events, and discuss issues that are important to us. After every meeting I go home having learned something or gained a new perspective. Even in the fall, when we were learning workshops I had already taught the year before, the group gave me totally new insight on how to explain something better and hit home the lesson objective. Now that we moved on from learning the workshops, we talk about social justice issues, and I get to talk with really cool fellow ~teens~ about complicated things like rape culture and consent for two hours every Thursday.
3- Political advocacy experience and outreach!
Every year, both the Boston and Central MA GRTC take part in a lobby day at the State House. A huge group of advocates and organizations for reproductive justice, spend a day with legislators trying to get their support for certain bills. Before the actual lobby day, we spend meetings learning specifics about the bills we are supporting and practicing talking to community members and legislators to gain their support. I had never advocated before joining the GRTC, and by the time the day came, I felt so prepared that I could just have an awesome time bouncing around the State House talking to my representatives. One of the bills I advocated for was even passed! The PATCH bill, which I talked to my representative about at Sexual Health Lobby Day last year, is now law in Massachusetts. The law protects the right that people (like young people or partners) have to confidentiality even if they are on someone else’s insurance and I helped make that happen! The GRTC provides so many opportunities to engage with state government, including lobby day, and it’s a really special way to get into political activism.
4- Public speaking and teaching experience!
I love talking in front of people, so it was no surprise when I taught my first workshop I fell in love with facilitating. If you love to talk like I do, the GRTC is the greatest opportunity to exercise your public speaking muscles. Most of the time you’re teaching a workshop to people who really want to hear it, so you get the feeling of talking and being heard, all for a good cause!
However, I am well aware that the vast majority of people do not share in my enthusiasm for public speaking. For those of you that see the facilitation aspect of the GRTC as daunting, let me assuage your fears. There are plenty of people in the program who never would have thought they would be capable of, let alone enjoy, speaking in front of a class, and are now pro-facilitators. The most important part of being a GRTC member is an open mind. If someone is open to facilitating a workshop, they will succeed, and if the first time feels rough, not only do you have a teen co-facilitator, there is a GRTC adult educator in the room with you. We spend all fall getting ready to teach workshops, so when the day comes to do so in a classroom, it doesn’t feel so scary! The GRTC is the perfect environment to step out of your comfort zone and get comfortable with public speaking.
5- Become a resource for your peers!
Probably the coolest part of being a member of the Get Real Teen Council is becoming a sexual health resource for my friends. People who know I volunteer at Planned Parenthood are truly always coming up to me asking me about the services PPLM provides, healthy relationships, and what to do when sexual health problems arise. Knowing I can provide my peers with accurate, unbiased information and direct them to countless credible resources is such a rewarding feeling. I literally help my friends stay safe and healthy with my knowledge! What’s more, I am always giving out free condoms that I get at Planned Parenthood which is 1.) super fun and 2.) makes sure people have no reason to have unprotected sex! Being part of the GRTC has opened my eyes to so much information surrounding sexual health, I love being able to share that and make my community a safer, healthier place. My favorite thing to share with people that I’ve learned as a GRTC member is no matter what, there is a sexual health resource out there for everyone; seeing the genuine shock and relief on peoples faces when they learn this for the first time warms my whole heart, and it can warm yours too if you apply for the GRTC!
Thanks so much for reading this blog! If you have felt even a sliver of longing to be a part of next year’s GRTC, please head over to pplm.org/GRTC to learn more and apply. Interviews are being held in May, so apply today! I hope to see you next year!