ALBANY, NY (03/20/2010)(readMedia)-- Teens from several Columbia and Albany County high schools who are members of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood's S.T.A.R.S. (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) peer education program gathered in Albany with other teens from across the state this past Monday to talk about and advocate for improved sex education.
Ten peer educators from Albany High School and eight Columbia County peer educators representing four different local schools attended the Youth Leadership Conference on March 15, 2010 hosted by Family Planning Advocates of New York State. During the conference, nearly 300 teens split up into workshops to discuss issues regarding their future choices. Workshops included "Know your Rights" which focused on educating the youth about their rights to access reproductive health care services; "Advocacy 101", which emphasized the essentials of advocating for issues critical to their generation; and "Now What? After High School and Beyond", which featured former peer educators and college organizers who spoke about how teens can remain active in social change post graduation.
The conference also focused on ensuring that this "Technology Generation" is prepared to employ all essential advocacy tools to promote change. These include online social media and significant personal contact with lawmakers and their employees.
"Something that has not changed is the need to be present at the Capitol from time to time and have face-to-face meetings with elected officials," said Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood Vice President for External Affairs, Rob Curry. "This conference provides our young peer educators the opportunity to develop a greater comfort level with advocacy and a host of other activist tools."
Danielle Gilleo, who attends the Hudson Alternative Learning program, Letycia Tillman from Hudson High School, and Amber Markham and Rachel Gryner from Taconic Hills High had an opportunity after the conference to meet with their Assembly member, Marcus Molinaro and his staff. They asked about why comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education is not currently a part of New York's academic standards. "Too many kids get sex education when it is way too late-in their junior or senior year of high school," said Tillman. "Even then, there is not enough time to cover it. Schools should have to meet better standards. This would result in knowledgeable, safer and healthier teens."
"The FPA conference for me was a riveting experience I look forward to having again in the future,"said Adnan Azad of Albany High School. Azad joined several dozen students in a demonstration outside the Department of Education also focusing on requiring comprehensive sex education in public schools.
According to Loren A. Moore, UHPP Youth Facilitator "the conference provided our youth with the opportunity to learn essential information about their rights to reproductive healthcare and the pivotal role they can play in shaping laws and effecting change through the legislative process…they were happy to attend and had an awesome time."
"The teens at this conference bring a great deal of passion and energy to the issues they care about, whether it be reproductive health and justice, comprehensive sex education, the environment, LGBT concerns or a host of other issues," said M. Tracey Brooks, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates. "They are the future of advocacy, and today we're helping them harness that passion and energy to effect positive change in their world."
The Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood S.T.A.R.S. (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) program recruits and trains high school students in Albany and Columbia county high schools to provide peer education services and community and classroom presentations focusing on sexual health and responsibility. The program is funded by the Community Based Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Project of the NYS Department of Health.