Updated: May 19
By Kelsey Olson, Corrie Rodriguez, and Brooke Becker
This time of year, many high school graduates are faced with the question: should I go to university or community college? For a lot of young people, community college offers an affordable option for core credits or technical and vocational degrees. Older teens who choose community college, however, are left wanting in terms of sexual health information and care.
In San Antonio, 18-19-year-olds account for 74% of all teen births. After high school, those who choose to enroll in community college have little-to-no access to sexual health programs. This is a stark comparison to their counterparts who enroll in a university, where health centers and educational programs are funded in order to support student’s sexual health needs. Without these resources, community college students lack sexual and reproductive health services, resources, and information, potentially limiting their personal care plans. For most, it seems, these campuses don’t have these resources readily available.
#SexEdForAll means that education must include community college students. Through programs that center community college students, Healthy Futures has become a leader in this field.
Since 2015, Healthy Futures’ community college program, BAE-B-SAFE, has expanded access to sexual and reproductive health education and resources at three Alamo Community Colleges. From the time BBS started on campus, we’ve gathered student perspectives that help bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know. Bringing the voices of those we serve to the table, we’ve taken the last six years of service as an opportunity to listen and learn from the very people we hope to empower.
Preliminary findings from BBS data provided insight into some of the barriers students expressed facing. Many reported the following barriers to optimal sexual wellness:
Not knowing where to go
Fear and anxiety about accessing health care
For young adults navigating their sexual health management, 32% also reported not having insurance. Furthermore, of those who had insurance, most reported that their biggest barrier was not knowing where to access services. It seems community college students are impacted by a lack of information and direction, not motivation. From the start, the BBS team quickly realized Alamo College students were very interested in receiving sex education and healthcare services. Therefore, beyond sharing medically accurate and relevant information about sex and relationships, BBS also put in the effort to answer questions like:
From the beginning, BAE-B-SAFE has been hard at work bridging the gaps between sexual health services, information, and the real lived experiences of community college students. We continue to tackle and dissolve the major barriers that block young adults from making informed and supported decisions about sex and family planning. As listed in the 2020 Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s (IWPR) Centering the Student Voice:
of students do not know if their campus has a health center
In campuses that do have a health center, 73% of students reported never using it for sexual and reproductive healthcare
Students also reported that many health clinics were inconvenient for them to use, as availability does not fit their personal, school, or work schedules
These barriers have continued to impact community college students across the country. This isn't the issue in San Antonio anymore. BAE-B-SAFE has been a trailblazer, setting precedents for finding solutions to these issues.
Gaining national recognition as an effective approach to ensuring the health and wellness of one of our most vulnerable populations, BAE-B-SAFE supports #SexEdForAll month by delivering medically accurate sexual health information and resources through fun, engaging, and relevant activities and events. By centering student voice and engagement in our services, BBS creates a memorable experience that can be practically applied to young adult’s personal health plans. Our approach has made BBS a trusted and sought-out resource that motivates students to learn and participate in their own self-management. BBS also refers students to Teen-Friendly clinics in San Antonio, ensuring those clinics have the funding to support students who are underinsured or not insured.
BAE-B-SAFE aims to reach all community college students in meaningful ways that create space for #SexEdForAll to become a reality on campus. Follow us on Instagram for inspiration on how to bring this reality to community college students near you.
Kelsey Olson, BAE-B-SAFE Program Coordinator, discovered her passion for sexual health education while earning her graduate degree in Health Education at Texas State University in San Marcos. Aside from sex ed, Kelsey enjoys reading and spending her summer days by the lake or floating nearby rivers.
Brooke Becker and Corrie Rodriguez, are both former Healthy Futures-interns-turned-BAE-B-SAFE Health Educators. As interns, Brooke and Corrie wowed the sexual health community with their passion and ideas. As educators, they continue to innovate sexual health culture.
When she's not teaching sex ed, Brooke Enjoys the great outdoors, exploring local parks. She is also civically engaged as a youth mentor. Corrie likes to spend her free time watching scary movies and playing with her dog and cat.
Fun fact, Brooke and Corrie are also friends IRL.
Stay tuned next week for an update on sex education in the Deaf community by our very own ASL interpreter and sex education coordinator, Paris Rangel.