Why I’m Thankful for Teen PEP
November 25, 2019
I can tell you at any given time how many hours are left until Thanksgiving break. But before I focus on the break, perhaps I should think about the point of the holiday and acknowledge what I’m grateful for! One thing? Teen PEP (Prevention Education Program).
In a recent meeting with my fellow Sex, Etc. teen staff writers, we talked about our sex ed experiences. Almost all of them had problems with their school’s sex ed. I, on the other hand, did not, thanks to Teen PEP. What is Teen PEP, you might ask? An evidence-based program implemented in schools in New Jersey and North Carolina, its goal is to provide peer education for younger students on sex and sexual health. At my school in New Jersey, every May our two Teen PEP teachers (also physical education/health teachers) choose 50 incoming juniors to join the two-year program as peer educators. I’m grateful that I was chosen last year.
Workshops—done for our school’s freshmen—consist of skits and small group activities. For the most part, we all do the same workshops: birth control, HIV/AIDS, healthy relationships and LGBTQ education. Those of us on Teen PEP get trained at a retreat over the summer, where we learn about the curriculum as well as how to distribute the information. Then, during the school year, we meet like a normal class every other day.
Being a part of Teen PEP has been one of the best things to ever happen to me. I’ve made strong connections with people I never thought I’d even meet in my high school of 3,000+ students! My class consists of teens from all different groups. As an avid theater kid, I would never have guessed I could name multiple soccer players.
Another reason this program means so much to me is because in my opinion, sex education is one of the most important things a student needs to learn. No matter what, some teens choose to participate in sexual behavior, and it’s important they’re provided information on how they can stay safe and engage in healthy relationships. Plus, sexual health should be talked about in a positive way, without judgment!
One time, after one of our workshops, a freshman walked up to me and asked, “Can you have sex without getting pregnant?” At first I was caught off guard. But then I told the boy no question about sex is a bad one. I explained to him in a professional manner how one could have sex and lower the risk of pregnancy. (There is no 100-percent effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy, outside of abstinence). In that moment I got to answer a question that he might be too nervous to ask an adult health teacher. It’s experiences like this that make me grateful for Teen PEP and to be a Teen PEP educator.