Promoting Health Among Teens: Abstinence-Only Intervention for Urban Youth

Promoting Health Among Teens: Abstinence-Only Intervention for Urban Youth


We wrote down a promise letter.
It helps teens figure out what they want to do with their lives and how can they get there. Dear Marizah, if I do engage in sexual behaviors, then this will affect me in the long run,
and I won’t be able to do what I want to do. What people should know about Program Reach is that it helps teens figure out what they want to
do with their lives and how can they get there. And also, if they’re going to be sexually
active, that there’s so many types of protection, but the only 100% way to protect yourself is abstinence. So, currently we’re running Promoting Health
Among Teens Abstinence intervention with 6th and 7th graders here in Yonkers in New York.
The program really is intended to help youth learn to reduce risks by avoiding risky behaviors,
such as sexual activity, and hopefully to get them to focus on their
future goals and dreams. When you’re dealing with young children, it’s
really critical to get them on a path towards success. So, Marizah joined the program
when she was in 6th grade, and she came here- she was such a timid little girl. She was one of those kids that you watched
transform in front of your eyes, so over the course of 2 weeks we saw her change. The way I would do this is to say “no” to
anything that will affect my education, and to focus on my only priority, which is school. Program Reach helped me, like, decide what
I’m going to do in the future when I have to face these behaviors.
It taught me that in order to reach my goals and my dreams,
I can’t do something stupid now because it will affect me in the long-run. I think the fact that kids give up 8 hours
a day on a Saturday to spend with us is just in itself a testament to the fact
that we’re making an impact for them. The best part of this is when you’re sitting
in a classroom watching these kids do a role-play, and you see them do the first role-play and
they are shy and timid and uncertain, and by the end of the day they are just so on point,
and so proud of themselves, and just totally in control of the situation,
and they have that voice to say “no”. That to me makes it all worthwhile. The best parts about the program were when
we did role-plays, like how would we act in that situation, and how we would, like,
say “no” or say “yes” if it was like a good behavior or something,
and we learned about all the different types of protection there is, but the only number 1
protection is abstinence. That’s the 100 percent way to protect yourself. These youth have such incredible ability.
They have the desire to make really healthy choices, and we as adults owe it to them to give them the skillset that will empower them to make
the best possible choices for their futures. I’m only 14. When I’m older I think I’ll face
those problems, but because I was in this program, I know that abstinence is the way.
We wrote down our goals and our dreams and how if we did this behavior, then it would
affect us, and like when we’re older, so that really,
like, made me think about how I wanted to be a doctor when I’m older,
and how I wanted to help people, but the first thing I have to do is help myself before I
help anybody else. So, a world of Marizahs who are empowered
and believe that they have the right to say “no” until they are ready is just so much
more of a hopeful world, and that’s the world that I want to live in.
That’s the legacy that we want to leave. Sincerely, me- aka, Marizah.

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