Studies show that the national average for an adolescent’s first sexual intercourse encounter is seventeen years old. Despite this number being very close to the average age in other industrialized countries, the United States holds a higher percentage of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) contraction than those countries (Harper et al, 2010, p. 125). It’s becoming evident that while a majority of the nation’s youth is sexually active, they are not doing so with the appropriate knowledge to keep themselves and others healthy.
It’s been proven that if parents were to educate students about sex education, healthy sexual behaviors might increase. Many parents, however, refuse to do this because they feel that talking about sex with youth will make them have sex, ignoring the fact that whether the youth are talked to or not, they are having sex. It has even been stated that some teens prefer to get the information from their parents, as opposed to other educators (Zamboni & Silver, 2009, p. 58 – 59).
Unfortunately, if the parents refuse to talk to the students about sex, they become sexually active without this crucial information. As the rates of STDs and teenage pregnancies rise in our country, youths between the ages of 12 and 20 years old could definitely benefit from the introduction of a family life education program focused on teaching the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviors. A program known as Youth Understanding Sexual Health (YUSH) would be the perfect venue for doing just this.
A program developed for teens in middle and/or high school, YUSH is a seven week program that seeks to ensure that these youths realize the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors, the consequences and results of participating in both, and how to make sure that they avoid negative, harmful, and otherwise unhealthy sexual behaviors. By instilling this information into the children at early ages before or soon after they have begun to participate in sexual behaviors, the program will meet several crucial goals.
First, it will get these students in to a routine of practicing healthy sexual behaviors that they can take with them well into adulthood. Not only will this maintain their own sexual health, but it will protect their other potential sex partners. Second, the new knowledge that the teens will gain from the program will allow them to pass on information to their peers that may not be allowed to participate in the program, be too embarrassed or shy to seek information, or been unable to attend the program sessions for any other reason.
Other aspects of society reach popularity in similar manners, including music, movies, video games, dances, or slang, so this information can be expected to spread in a very similar manner. According to Powell & Cassidy (2007), when developing an effective family life education program, its important make sure that they needs of the audience are appropriately addressed (p. 79 – 80).
Of the three needs, felt, ascribed, and future needs, both felt and ascribed needs can be determined before the program has started. In order to effectively determine these needs, the appropriate assessments must be taken. Prior to the start of the program, certified family life educators (CFLEs) will conduct an assessment by using focus groups and questionnaires from potential program attendees within the target audience.
Since the target audience is composed of students that attend local middle and high schools, the CFLEs will send home two things to the parents of all of the potential students: a letter requesting permission for the teens to participate in the program, which details the material that will be discussed and the extent of the programs, along with a questionnaire for the student and parent to complete together which addresses the information that both parties feel should be addressed in such a program.
In order protect confidentiality; the questionnaire will be a two part survey with one aspect for parents and one aspect for the students to fill out. Using the questionnaires from the parents and information from the schools and community, CFLEs will be able to determine the ascribed needs of the program. The information obtained from the students’ surveys will reveal the felt needs of the program. The final category of needs, future needs, will be addressed throughout the duration of the program and will be met through a combination of student comprehension and effective facilitation by CFLEs.
If YUSH seeks success, another thing that Powell & Cassidy (2007) suggest is well trained and effective educators. CFLEs will undergo extensive training in which they will learn to fully accept their roles as facilitators, exhibit effective listening skills and communication skills, and how to encourage the youth to participate in the program’s discussions and activities (p. 92 – 112). The National Council of Family Relations (NCFR) (2011) explains that there are certain requirements necessary before an individual can be a CFLE and this involves either graduating from an approved program or taking the CFLE exam.
In addition to that certification, and in order to specialize in sexual health, YUSH facilitators will be trained to have a complete understanding of the material and how to appropriately present the information to the teens by means of seminars, training kits, and manuals. Qualified facilitators and understanding of the appropriate needs of the target audience are only two aspects of ensuring that YUSH is a successful program. A location and time for the program’s meeting must be established, as well as the frequency of meetings.
When choosing a location, it’s important to make sure that there will be privacy, comfort, and no distractions. The location must be appropriate for the size of the group. With such a large target audience, it will be necessary to have several different groups. The groups can be separated by grade, with about 20 – 25 students in each group. These groups would meet during their health classes during school hours, but without regular teachers and/or administrators in the rooms, so that the adolescents feel comfortable.
The curriculum of the YUSH program takes place once a week for seven weeks, with approximately 1 ? hour sessions each week. Each week will have a different topic to focus on with the schedule as follows: Week 1: Introduction to Sexual Health, Opening Questions and Concerns Week 2: Sexual Myths Week 3: Decision-Making, Abstinence Week 4: Protecting Yourself/Contraceptives Week 5: Sexually Transmitted Diseases Week 6: Risky Sexual Behaviors, Sexual Violence Week 7: Re-Cap, Evaluations, Final Concerns
During the first session, YUSH facilitators will lead the youth in icebreakers to introduce themselves to one another as well as complete opening surveys that address what each student expects to take away from the program. Also, within this session, there will be questions posed by students to be asked at that time or at the end of the program. Rules of the program will be explained, including maintaining respect for others and their privacy. Participation should be encouraged and questions welcomed (Powell & Cassidy, 2007, p. 103 – 105).
YUSH presenters will use a variety of presentation methods in each of the courses including a formal method or informal. Using Week 5’s topic of STDs as an example, the formal method would involve a lecture format with handouts, notes and power point presentations. CFLE would have teens identify what they have learned through this information with quizzes and tests. The quizzes, which would be a combination of fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice answers, will address the different types of STDs, how to contract them, how they are spread, the symptoms of each and how to treat them.
This method would also involve the distribution of pamphlets and brochures to sum up the week’s discussion. An informal method of presenting the information involves using games and scenarios to enhance the teens’ understanding of STDs. A Jeopardy format in which youth match symptoms to disease might also be an effective means of presenting the information. YUSH facilitators would also have the option of using various scenarios and role play models to show the ways that STDs are spread, contracted and treated.
The Department of Public Health of Seattle and King County (2011) suggests an interactive activity for showing the ways that STDs spread by using several small cups of water, one cup with a water/vinegar mixture, and several pH paper slips. During several different rounds, students will mix the contents of their cups with other students. At the end of the activity, students dip their test strips to see who might be potentially “infected. ” After someone has interacted with the vinegar mixture, or someone else who has interacted with that mixture, they are more than likely infected.
The activity shows that even though it may not be visibly noticeable (because the vinegar mixture is still clear like the water); it’s easily spread if no protection is used. The fact that some students may have noticed the vinegar smell shows that though sometimes the symptoms may be noticeable, they can still be overlooked by others (p. 2 – 8). Another informal method of presenting the topics of the week would be via interactive methods such as projects, guest speakers, and field trips which exemplify that week’s information.
Guest speakers would be extremely effective during Week 4’s discussion of protection and contraceptives. In this example, guest speakers would come from various family planning centers to show students the various contraceptives options that they can choose from and explain how to decide which ones best fit their lifestyles. Finally, the reasons for supporting and bringing this program to life will be evident in the evaluations of the program’s effectiveness, determined in the last week of YUSH and in the weeks afterwards.
According to Powell & Cassidy (2007), the best way to determine the effectiveness of a family life, more specifically sexual education program, is to witness the changes in behaviors and attitudes (p. 185). As rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs decrease in areas that will have adopted the YUSH program, it will be very apparent that the program has worked and that youth were paying attention in the courses. Furthermore, surveys and questionnaires will be distributed on the last day of the program which will seek to determine how participants and parents feel about the knowledge gained in the program.
The last day of class will also be used to wrap up the course by answering questions that haven’t been answered thus far and taking suggestions about any necessary aspects of the program. As a follow-up to the program, CFLEs will send additional newsletters to participants as well as invite them back to be program assistants at the next session of YUSH. References Department of Public Health: Seattle & King County (2011, January 1). STD Risks. Family Life and Sexual Health. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from http://www. kingcounty.
gov/healthservices/health/personal/famplan/educators/FLASH. aspx Harper, C. , Henderson, J. , Schalet, A. , Becker, D. , Stratton, L. , & Raine, T. (2010). Abstinence and Teenagers: Prevention Counseling Practices of Health Care Providers Serving High-Risk Patients in the United States. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 42(2), 125-132. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from the EBSCO database. National Council on Family Relations. (2011, January 2). CFLE Certification. NCFR. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from http://www. ncfr. org/ Powell, L. H. , & Cassidy, D. (2007).
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