I am an 18-year-old graduate of Bellaire High School and am currently enrolled at Northwestern Michigan College. I am majoring in either secondary or public health education. I am an identical twin and absolutely love it. I also have an older sister, an awesome little brother, two phenomenal parents, a cat, a dog, and a duck named Cow! Im pretty much your average small-town girl.
But, enough about me -- on to the reason Im writing.
My brother is in seventh grade. I always tell him that this was my favorite year of middle school. Of course, I never tell him why. He doesnt need to have his first kiss yet!
Another memorable moment was when I was introduced to Planned Parenthoods Peer Education program.
I remember it perfectly; I walked into class right after lunch, books in hand, on time, and walked right to my seat. I sat down, and immediately turned to my friend and said, Sweet, we dont have to do anything today -- we have speakers. Little did I know that three years later, I would be the one standing in front of the classroom, with students saying exactly what I had said. Unfortunately for them, I knew exactly what they were whispering about, which is why my teaching partner, Kristine and I, tried to make it as fun as possible. We taught REAL sex ed we could answer questions about birth control and why they should use it. We also taught kids how to say no to sex and gave them the words and confidence to make that choice if they wanted to.
One thing I didnt mention is that Ive been babysitting for the same family for six years. When I started, Ellie was three, and her brother David was six. Now they are almost 10 and 12. Ellie and I always joke that Im not really their babysitter anymore -- just a friend who is A LOT older.
I love these kids just as I do my little brother. I want them all to be able to learn the information I was lucky enough to learn while working with Planned Parenthood. But, at this point, this information is being held back from these kids.
It has been two years since Peer Educators have been able to teach this information in the classroom. And when I think of everything that my brother, David, Ellie, and all the kids like them are missing out on, to put it bluntly, it sucks.
Ill admit that in seventh grade I didnt realize how the information I learned would impact my life, but they arent even getting the opportunity to hear it. Believe me, at that age you have questions. A lot of questions. So where are they supposed to get the answers? Health teachers? Your history teacher, who had to teach a semester of sex education because it fit the school schedule?
Well, at my high school, where its abstinence-only sex education, if you ask a teacher ANYTHING about condoms or any other form of birth control, the federal funding guidelines ban them from talking about it. Theyll tell you: You dont need that, youre not having sex.
WHOA, WAIT, back up. Were not having sex? Really? My health teacher told my senior health class that once, which was funny because as she said it, she stood in front of a girl that had a two-year-old daughter. Instead of telling her that shes not having sex (because she definitely was), wouldnt it have been better to have taught her how to keep herself safe? And if teachers arent allowed to do that, and there arent any programs to teach kids how to stay safe, is it really their fault if they get pregnant or contract an STI?
As I was thinking about this, I went back to my high school to talk to teachers. One teacher surprised me. She told me she thinks that sex education needs to be different in schools, because we both know that kids are having sex. Thats just how it is. Although adults like to think that all teens are choosing abstinence, thats not the reality.
This teacher wasnt even the health teacher, but even if she were, she couldnt bring up sex education. This needs to change. Kids need to be able to get the real information and know that there are people they can talk to. You wouldnt believe what they think is true about sex.
By banning real sex education, we are actually encouraging kids to make uninformed decisions about some very important parts of their lives. Its great to know there is at least one teacher at my school who believes this; but her students will never know. It is so important to me that my brother and Ellie and David -- and every other kid out there -- is able to receive real, factual
I know that teenagers having sex is not something that adults want to think about, but it doesnt matter whether you want to believe it or not. Believe it from an 18-year-old KIDS ARE HAVING SEX: we want and we crave quality information. If health teachers arent allowed to teach it, we need programs like Planned Parenthoods, which can. Every day without this information, kids are putting themselves at risk for pregnancy and all the STIs that are out there.
I have now dedicated my life to teaching kids this information, thanks completely to Planned Parenthood and Peer Education. It is so important to me that, in six years, I will be out there teaching kids so they can stay safe and make smart decisions. But, this can only happen if a transformation occurs. Its hard for me to know that my brother and all the kids I care about are getting to the age where they are at risk, but I feel better knowing Planned Parenthood is dedicated to helping them through this part of their lives.