Photo by FLickr user Mitchell Joyce/ Creative Commons.

Photo by FLickr user Mitchell Joyce/ Creative Commons.
Photo by FLickr user Mitchell Joyce/ Creative Commons.

A young teenager grew up without ever having a serious, comprehensive sex education class. That young teen then became a curious high school student who had unanswered questions. When he would try to ask questions, he would be ignored because of his ‘immaturity,’ when in reality, he was truly clueless about the subject and only wanted honest answers. Because one was expected to already know the answers by high school, he was never taken seriously when he asked questions about sex.

I was that clueless student. I remember hearing my classmates laugh at the images shown to us when we learned about puberty in elementary school. Many of them were immature and unable to understand what was told to us, and I had a lot of questions that were left unanswered. Even now that I’m in high school, many of my peers are missing out on the opportunity to learn valuable information about sex, while also learning inaccurate information from TV, their friends, and other places.

Many schools no longer offer health class, which is usually where sex education is taught. And some parents don’t feel comfortable talking to their kids about sex. Because of these and other reasons, there are many myths going around about how the body works, how pregnancy can be prevented, and how to protect against certain diseases. These myths can lead teens to do things that could put their health at risk, sometimes with life-long consequences.

It wasn’t until last year, when I learned about Planned Parenthood’s Peer Advocate Program at my high school, that I understood how this is affecting youth. Planned Parenthood trains 60 Peer Advocates at six high schools in Los Angeles. On school campuses, peer advocates can help dispel common myths about sexual behaviors, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The members of this program have different reasons for participating. Each are motivated by different things but they have the common goal of helping others.

“I joined the Planned Parenthood Peer Advocate program because I wanted to get information for myself about sexual and reproductive health, “ said Candy, a Boyle Heights high school senior and program member. “I wanted to be a resource for students in my school, not just my friends but anyone that has questions.”

The reality is some teens are sexually active and they’re in that stage of life where they could use all the information they can get. In communities like Boyle Heights, which suffer from high rates of teen pregnancy, Peer Advocates represent a valuable resource. We are here to help, because teens might find it easier to talk to someone their same age about sexual health.

“This program provides open lines of communication about healthy relationships and decision-making, encourages family communication and informs teens about where to access reproductive health-care services, ” said Katie, a group leader for the Boyle Heights Peer Advocate group.

Sex education is extremely important and teenagers should learn as much as they can so that they can be informed on how to stay safe. With all the myths out there, it’s important that teens have someone they can trust when they have questions about sex. Everyone should do their part to make Boyle Heights a healthy community, and taking care of your sexual health is a big part of staying healthy.

For more information about Planned Parenthood’s Youth Programs, call 213-284-3200 or e-mail ppla-education@pp-la.org

Eddie P. is a high school student in Boyle Heights and Peer Advocate with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

Note: Last names were omitted in this article for confidentiality reasons.

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