Teen pregnancy has been a serious social issue in East New York where a disproportionate number of young people are having children before finishing high school. When a group of girls from Good Shepherd Services’s Groundwork for Success in Brooklyn participated in GO Girls, RAP’s girls’ health justice program, this past fall, the students knew exactly what topic to focus on for their end-of-program project.
Two of the girls in the program spoke to Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP) on how the group conceptualized and created their video, Information Overload, on how they feel sex education has failed their community in Brooklyn. Syanne Fleming, 16, is a student at Brooklyn High School of the Arts, and Samiya Sparkes, 14, goes to James Madison High School.
Syanne and Samiya shared that their group brainstormed several possible topics, and settled on teen pregnancy as the number one girls’ health justice issue impacting their community. All group members thought the community needed more awareness on the correlation between sexual activity and teen pregnancy, said Syanne. Although topics such as bullying and help with classroom work were also important to young people, sex education won hands down as the most relevant, said Samiya.
GO Girls is one of three youth programs developed by RAP to equip young people with leadership skills and prepare them to advocate for social justice issues among their peers. This health justice program seeks to transform adolescent girls into community health advocates around issues of mental health, reproductive health, nutrition, and body image using an innovative in-class curriculum focused on leadership development and health education.
The GO Girls workshop series was facilitated by two RAP-trained volunteers, Brooklyn Law School students Jill Rudge and Lexi Todd. They guided the discussion using questionnaires, newspaper articles, and interactive games to help the girls explore sexual health issues affecting them and their peers and to develop their advocacy skills.
The girls did more research on sexual and reproductive health rights and decided that they wanted to do a video as their community impact project. The group wrote the script for the video and created the graphics, while Jill and Lexi supported the editing process and provided some creative touches. The result was the educational and engaging 8-minute video, Information Overload, where they presented the following facts:
· In 2009, East New York had 327 births to every 1,000 teens.
· Between 2006 and 2010, black and Latino people had the highest rate of teen births in New York City.
· Young people in Brooklyn are still at a high risk of experiencing unwanted teen pregnancy, harassment and sexual health issues.
The girls said they knew teen pregnancy was a problem, but didn’t realize how serious it was until they did their research. Samiya said the best part about the project was having the opportunity and forum to share her opinions on the topic. For Syanne, the process of creating the video has taught her to work better with a group. She said that the girls discussed the topic amicably even if they had disagreements. Everyone had a different perspective, but nobody argued, she observed. “We became closer after the project.”
The girls believe they have a good message young people can learn from, and they are hoping the video will catch the attention of the community and lead to some form of legislation that would improve sex education curriculum.
Syanne summed up the group’s sentiments by reflecting that their peers do not like to be seen as statistics. She and her fellow GO Girls participants hope that Information Overload viewers will take to heart the film’s message and advocate for an improved sex ed curriculum for schools in their community.