The YEAH! Network uses research, advocacy, and community education and collaboration to influence policy and practice in adolescent sexual health. By articulating a common agenda among diverse local, state, and national stakeholders, we are working to create an informed, empowered, and engaged response to teen pregnancy and sexual health disparities in Hampden County.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holyoke Youth Rising!

~Nothing About Us, Without Us~  

Today the YEAH Network Adolescent Advisory Board (AAB) and Ambassadors from Girls Inc. met with Mayor Elaine Pluta in the City Council Chambers.  They discussed their concerns about teen sexual health, presented the most recent data and shared what they felt contributed most to the high rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted diseases in the community. 

Key Issues identified by the teens:
  • The poor self image of some young girls in Holyoke due to the perception that Holyoke girls "just get pregnant."
  • Incomplete or poorly taught sex education in the public schools
  • The need for sex education at the middle school level in order to prevent unhealthy sexual  health behaviors

The teens made recommendations that included: 

  • Better sex education 
  • Involving teens in the process of implementing changes 
  •  A “big one:" getting parents to talk to teens about sexual health issues 
  • Increased access to work opportunities for teens in order to keep teens engaged in positive work 
  • Working on these issues at a faster pace, especially since the high rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted infection has been a chronic problem in the community.

The teens specifically asked Mayor Pluta how they can help implement the recommendations of the Redevelopment Committee of the City Council that focus on reducing the high rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted infections in Holyoke.

It was amazing to see the leadership and confidence of these young women and men!  The meeting ended with a discussion about specific steps that the teens can take in the next few weeks to be part of Holyoke’s plan to improve the sexual health of teens. 
Next steps:
1. The YEAH Network Adolescent Advisory Board, under the direction of Teresa Vazquez, will be hosting a table at the Holyoke Health Center on Friday afternoon to collect signatures from Holyoke residents supporting comprehensive science based sexual health education.

2.  Members of the Adolescent Advisory Board will attend the School Committee meeting on Monday, March 15th to support  the approval of the sex ed curriculum.

Girls Inc. Ambassadors with Mayor Pluta

 AAB members with Mayor Pluta

Strong work, teens!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Advocacy Update!

Since the last meeting of the Holyoke Latino Leadershop Roundtable, Mayor Elaine Pluta held a meeting taking a first step towards forming a citywide taskforce to address the high rates of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies among youth in Holyoke.   At the meeting YEAH Network staff and partner organizations emphasized the recommendations that came from the Holyoke Roundtable on March 22.  We also advocated for

  • The task force to include parent and teen representation 
  • The task force to encourage the Holyoke Public School Curriculum Subcommittee to move forward with approval of the chosen science based sex education curriculum (After the meeting, the YEAH Network was informed that the curriculum will be presented to the committee on Monday, March 15th.) 
  • The task force to move forward with implementation of the recommendations from the Redevelopment Committee of Holyoke City Council regarding the high teen birth rates in the city.

¡Hablando Claro Springfield!

Latinos Speak out about Adolescent Health! 
A group of 10 Springfield parents gathered on March 3rd to discuss what the Latino community can do to take a stronger leadership role in improving the sexual health of youth. The purpose of the discussion was to highlight the voices of Latino parents as well as their contribution to finding solutions to a health crisis that disproportionately impacts Latino youth.

Below are some of the major themes from the discussion:
  • There exists a difference in views and perceptions of teen sexual health between generations of Latinos.  Younger Latino parents support educating their children about sexual health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
  • We need to engage men and boys in the dialogue about teen sexual health and increase their role in addressing the high rates of sexually transmitted infectionss and pregnancy in the youth population. We should highlight the importance of healthy relationships.
  • We need to get more information out to the Latino community about this issue in order to increase awareness and provide parents and care givers with the information they need to communicate better with their children about sexual health issues.
The discussion provided a wealth of information that has planted the seeds for the next actions steps. The YEAH Network thanks the participants of this group for being informed, empowered and engaged in improving the sexual health of youth and taking steps to strengthen our families!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reproductive Health News the YEAH! Network is following

  • Discussion of International Women's Day, March 8