Updated: May 3, 2021
By Elizabeth Tang & Eleni Pacheco
Though the world has been on pause for the past few months, that hasn’t stopped a new and evolved Youth Advocacy Council from springing into action. With sex ed standards on the line for all Texas public schools, 2020 brought closure to our former cohort’s advocacy efforts and the perfect opportunity for new members to jump right into the movement. Not, of course, without receiving revised and innovative training and education.
After a tearful farewell to over 90% of last year’s council (congrats, grads!), it felt as though we were starting from scratch this summer. Luckily, longtime council member Maya and intern Romeo helped develop an agenda that covered all the basics and then some. By August, we were ready to kick off the year with virtual orientation and sex ed boot camp - boosting member’s confidence, knowledge, and skill.
Recognizing that the council represents all walks of life, it was important to orient new members on taking a values-neutral approach to sexual health. Staff not only modeled this principle throughout each lesson but included activities to help members adopt and practice this skill. By including real-life scenarios involving topics like healthy relationships, communication, and consent, we were able to dig deep into our own beliefs about sex and sexuality while acknowledging and celebrating our differences.
Tying newly learned sex education to their own unique and individual goals, members fashioned their personal testimonies through a collaborative interview activity. It was important to see the bigger picture in terms of their own ideas on San Antonio’s sexual health needs, and they were able to recognize how others perceive those ideas in hearing the reports of each interview. Through this combination of education and personalizing information, this year's young leaders learned that consent, healthy relationships, and LGBTQ+ inclusion are of top priority.
Using those testimonies, members advocated for better sex ed standards during this year’s State Board of Education TEKS revisions. While some opted to email their representatives, Team Lead Elizabeth, Carmen, Eva, and Maya spoke at the final public hearing, delivering powerful testimony in support of the most recent draft of standards. With the help of the council, Texas schools will move away from teaching abstinence-only, to include information on contraception and STIs in their sex ed curriculum.
As we look forward to completing this year’s orientation period, we see that YAC is well on its way to becoming self-governing and change-making leaders of the sexual health movement. Successes have already been won, relationships built, and the stage set for statewide expansion of sexual health advocacy. Stay connected, show support, and grow with us by following our Instagram: @hftxyac.
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.
Eleni Pacheco, San Antonio Project Coordinator, discovered their passion for culture and sexuality while studying anthropology at UTSA. They chose to work in sex ed with the mission of creating world peace through shared power and community efficacy. Outside of education, Eleni shows love by feeding their friends (often experimenting on them with new recipes) and bonding over backyard karaoke.