Updated: May 18, 2021
By Sophia Montemayor, Elizabeth Tang, and Elisha Bedford
Providing young people with sex education means sharing information, skills, and the motivation to make healthy decisions. Yet, youth voice is rarely considered when policies shaping their access to sex ed are created. By including young people in the development and implementation of sexual health policies, we can co-create something that truly encourages learning, allowing them to take full advantage of their education.
Studies show that evidence-based sex education will positively and significantly affect the health and well-being of young people. Young people actually want to know what is happening with their bodies, how they can stay safe, and how to make healthier choices. To truly reach #SexEdForAll, we need systemic change - starting with youth representation in sexual health policies.
Through hard work and dedication, creating a system where young people are not only informed but empowered to make change is possible. Through a framework of positive youth development around sex education advocacy, Healthy Futures has been able to create a space for young people to fully realize and practice civic autonomy. We call this space The Youth Advocacy Council.
Former YAC member, Maya Cantu recalls her experience with the program and the impact it’s made in her life. “Through the council, I can take hold of my own future while uplifting others. YAC has handed me the microphone into which I tell the truth: a thriving youth is a thriving community” she reports. Fostering a healthy and happy community starts with systemic change that is rooted in the needs of the people. By making a seat at the table for youth from all walks of life - especially at policy development tables - we can effectively create a future with #SexEdForAll.
The YAC Leadership Team facilitates training throughout the year to build the foundation for the cohort to utilize their experiences as stakeholders and soon-to-be sexual health experts. Topics like how a bill is made, how to speak to elected officials, advocacy how-tos, leadership workshops, community engagement, and, of course, sex education are all included to ensure young people are empowered by their autonomy and confidence in their identity.
Advocacy and civic engagement around sex education uncover opportunities for young people to have their voices amplified beyond their personal wellness plan to the representatives whose policy-making powers impact them. Through programs like YAC that blend sex ed and policy, we are effectively inspiring a generation of future voters, volunteers, and community educators.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining our 2021-2022 cohort, apply here.
Sophia Montemayor is Healthy Futures' Health Ed. Program Coordinator. SA native and UTSA Public Health graduate, Sophia strives to educate and empower young people through advocacy and information. By joining the Healthy Futures of Texas team, her personal passion is becoming her professional ambition. In her free time, Sophia enjoys good food and spending time with her family, friends, and dog, Meatball.
Elizabeth Tang is the first-ever Team Lead for the Youth Advocacy Council and a YAC alum herself. A first-year student at UT Austin, this young leader plans to pursue a career in public health with hopes of being an asset to the community. Elizabeth can be found reading or playing with her cat when she isn’t working on creating opportunities for equitable sex education.
Elisha Bedford, YAC Team Lead, enjoys serving and educating young people. A senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, she is working towards becoming a skilled content creator and educator with the goal of giving back to her community through organizational service. Elisha's other talents include modeling, working on-set for the big screen, and bringing all of her ideas and dreams to life.
Stay tuned next week for more about sex education in community college, as told by our BAE-B-SAFE staff, Kelsey, Corrie, and Brooke.