Teens Leading Change

Hearken back to your teenage years. You’re learning how to drive, how to balance friendship and schoolwork, how to extend your curfew a few extra minutes. Maybe you have a part-time job and responsibility to pitch in at home is continuing to increase.

On top of all this, your body is full of hormones, and curiosity about love, relationships, and sex is at the forefront of your mind. Parents and teachers with the best intentions and the most robust information on sexual health might not be your first choice to turn to with questions.

“Youth, in general, go to their friends for information on sensitive topics. This is why we feel it’s important to train youth on these topics so they can give accurate information,” said Judy Romero, Director of the Sequoia Teen Resource Center (STRC) at Sequoia High School in Redwood City.

STRC was launched in 2004 through a partnership with Redwood City 2020, Sequoia Union High School District, and San Mateo Medical Center. STRC currently serves a student body of 2,100 at Sequoia High School to provide physical and mental health services, health education, and youth development programs. The Packard Foundation has funded this effort since 2009, supporting the implementation of a comprehensive approach to healthy development and ensuring students avoid choices that lead to teen pregnancy.

A critical piece of STRC’s work is its engagement of a Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Since the very early days of the center, YAB has played a substantial role in the STRC’s successful programming by equipping students with the information and confidence needed to be leaders among their peers on issues including sexual and reproductive health.

YAB consists of approximately 30 students who represent all grade levels. The YAB participants commit to a year of service, which includes meeting for one hour per week and volunteering for various school events. They host information tables at the school’s health fair as well as offer sexual health information at lunch during critical times of the year such as Valentine’s Day and directly before prom. These students are a consistent source for their peers to learn more about how to obtain free condoms, where to get tested for STDs, and what birth control options are available.

“YAB members express feeling more confident, improve their communication skills, feel a sense of empowerment, and are more optimistic about their ability to make positive changes in their school and community,” said Judy.

The Packard Foundation has a strong belief in the importance of comprehensive sex education with a goal to reduce teen pregnancy in our communities. STRC is approaching sex education in a thoughtful and impactful way through creating an empowering and educational program for youth managed by supportive adults who encourage peer-to-peer learning and teen leadership.