On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood held an end of the year dinner and celebration event for local Albany High School students who have participated in the S.T.A.R.S. (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) peer education program. Students, parents and staff gathered first for dinner at the Victory Café and then completed the evening at UHPP center at 259 Lark Street where graduating seniors were honored and all participating students were recognized.
Tiffini Bonefant has been a S.T.A.R.S. peer educator for several years and is now graduating. “It’s a phenomenal program,” said Bonefant. “The S.T.A.R.S. program at Planned Parenthood is a very interesting experience, especially because of the diverse people you meet. You walk in with certain information and skills and leave with even more experience to bring to future personal and professional situations.”
Johron Lee is also graduating from high school and the S.T.A.R.S. program. “This experience has really helped my growth,” said Lee. “I have grown as a young adult and as a young man, and I think that I’ll continue to show improvement.”
Those Albany high school students who participated in the S.T.A.R.S. program during the 2009-2010 school year, but who are not yet graduating include Adnan Azad, Krishona Brown, Brihan Ford, Darian Henry and Zaraya Merritt.
The Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood S.T.A.R.S. program recruits and trains high school students from Albany and Columbia Counties each year to act as peer educators. The students study and learn about a variety of issues related to sexual health and responsibility, and also learn speaking and presentation skills. Once trained, they provide educational programs on issues of sexual health in classrooms, community settings and at the UHPP weekly teen clinic. The peers are responsible for staffing a minimum of 50 teen clinic sessions each year.
A parent present at the Wednesday event shared her thoughts about the program. She commented on the many strengths the peers acquire including, “self esteem, sexual awareness and improved school participation.” She also shared the fact that the S.T.A.R.S. program “helped my child become more independent, improved positive work habits and turned around school habits for the better.”
Meaghan Carroll is the UHPP Education Director and oversees the two Youth Program Facilitators responsible for S.T.A.R.S. in Albany and Columbia Counties. According to Carroll, “the S.T.A.R.S. program has been able to engage peers year after year, allowing them to grow and mature within the program and to make an ongoing difference in their communities.”
The success of the program is shown, says Carroll, “by the peers’ ability to take the knowledge they are given and use it in their future endeavors… Seeing a group of very diverse kids from very diverse backgrounds all share that experience is really rewarding.”
The S.T.A.R.S. program is made possible through a grant from the New York State Department of Health-Community Based Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CBAPP).
Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (UHPP) is a community-based non-profit organization providing advocacy, education and medical services for reproductive health care since 1934. In 2009, over 14,000 patients made 24,975 visits to UHPP health centers located in Albany, Hudson and Troy. UHPP health educators present over 300 education programs reaching over 5,000 youth and young adults. UHPP services are delivered with special concern for the underserved.