Middle school students involved in Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation after school program took a stand for more sexual health education and took matters into their own hands by holding a community health fair for their peers on Thursday, May 29.
In addition to student presentations, Organizations such as the Citizens Advisory Bureau and P.H.A.N.G. (Preventing HIV and AIDS in the Next Generation), came out to speak to the students and provide literature at tables in the courtyard of P.S./M.S. 218 at 1220 Gerard Avenue.
The sixth grade class, called Project STEP, created a video public service announcement that advocated the need for increased education on teen pregnancy and sexual health.
Student Binta Touray feels that teachers attempt to teach sex-ed, but are bound to go only so far by the Department of Education.
Jeannely Lopez, 13, served as an organizer and MC for the event and worked on the 8th grade’s mural sized poster that included teen pregnancy statistics and images that reflected the students’ feelings on the mater.
“Some families don’t ever talk about sex and it’s important to learn,” said Lopez, hoping the poster stimulated discussion.
The WHEDCO staff on hand left much of the organization to their students, who learned both about topics important to them as well as leadership skills.
“The important thing about this event is that it was student generated,” said WHEDCO development officer Rachel Barany.
Organizers hoped to dispel the idea that talking about sex and giving information on safe sexual practices indirectly encourages kids to engage in the activities.
“It’s a myth,” said Nicole Jennings, of Project STEP. “All of the studies done largely confirm that sexual health education delays sexual activity.”
While the event was meant to inform students and their peers, the students WHEDCO’s Project STEP program also wowed representatives of health organizations on hand at the fair.
“I’m surprised at the knowledge these kids have,” said Wilfredo Rodriquez, the hepatitis coordinator at St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction.