My first regular job teaching sex ed was in the South Bronx. Though I’d lived in New York for a number of years by that point, I still wasn’t really sure what to expect.
I knew that the Bronx had burned in the seventies, and was hit hard by violence, HIV, poverty and teen pregnancy. But I wasn’t sure what this would mean for my kids on a day-to-day basis.
After four years of teaching there, I saw that while these were real issues for a lot of the teens I worked with, they weren’t necessarily defined by them.
I was reminded of this when I read about the Bronx based Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WEDC is an anti-poverty organization. In addition to a lot of other projects, they run an after-school program for girls called STEP. After-school for these girls wasn’t just about milk and cookies and homework time. Recently, the group worked on a community empowerment program, and collected over 200 signatures on a petition demanding that their middle school provide comprehensive sex education.
The girls also managed to drum up media coverage, and they met with City Council to testify that sex education should be mandatory in the classroom. Pretty impressive for a group of 12- and 13-year-olds!
If you’re bummed out by the state of sex ed in your school, but feel like there’s nothing you can do take a second to check out the STEP girls’ website for inspiration.
On the site, the girls cover the importance of sex ed, provide a list of resources, and tackle media messages and song lyrics. (Make sure to read their take on Lil Wayne’s "I don’t use rubbers, and I don’t plan no kids girl / I don’t want your number, I want your trouble, in ya skins girl.").
I’d be interested in hearing what you think about teen activism. Do you think it could be an effective way to get better sex ed where you live?