Teens teach the taboo topics
When it comes to talking about sex, teens have a lot to say.
Unfortunately, much of that is misinformation and a focus on what feels good instead of on the often significant repercussions. But one group of trained and educated Truckee teens are taking a different perspective of sex, abstinence and decision-making into classrooms across the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
The Nevada County Teen Advocates, eight Truckee high school students who volunteer for the Community Clinic for Adults and Teens, have been working for the past 18 months to establish their role in the community and in the hallways of their own schools.
“One of the first things we talk about when we do a presentation is abstinence,” said Kimi Caperon, a 19-year-old graduate of Sierra High School. “I think that some people are scared not to do what their friends are doing, and we let them know that it’s OK” not to.
The advocates also reiterate to students in the elementary schools through high school that it’s OK to reject tobacco, alcohol and violent behavior. The advocates provide answers to nearly any question, give resource information, and lend an open ear for anyone who needs to talk at any time.
“Most of the middle schoolers seem pretty anti-tobacco, and want the information we give them to help their parent or older sibling quit,” Caperon said. “Sometimes they ask silly questions, but even the high schoolers are asking off-the-wall questions.”
Outside of the classroom, the advocates assist once a week at the community clinic, where teens can come ” no questions asked ” to receive information on drugs, tobacco and family planning. The clinic also offers sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy testing, plus medical and counseling referrals when necessary, all in a bilingual and absolutely confidential environment.
“We see about 500 teens a year in Truckee with two to three unplanned pregnancies a month, and that is just way too many,” said Kathlee Martin, nurse practitioner at the community clinic. “Prevention is key, and [the Teen Advocate] role in the community is just invaluable.”
To encourage teens to take advantage of the resources and information available to them at the clinic, and to minimize fear or embarrassment, the clinic offers a teen-only waiting room and a rear entrance accessible from the parking lot.
And the advocates said the program is not just an asset to the community, but is also beneficial to their own lives.
“It’s helped me with public speaking and overcoming shyness,” said Tahoe Truckee High School senior Jacqueline Gomez, who joined the advocates as a result of watching friends get pregnant or pulled into drugs. “You learn how to listen to people properly, and you really learn that sometimes people don’t even need advice, they just need someone who is going to take the time to listen.”
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