By Elijah

At the beginning of ninth grade, I started working with the Teen Outreach Reproductive CHallenge (TORCH) program in New York City, and I continue to work with the organization to this day. TORCH is a youth focused program designed to educate teens on sexual and reproductive health rights in New York City. Yes, I, a high school student, am responsible for educating my peers on various topics related to human sexuality (including contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and body image), in order to provide them with critical healthcare information that they do not receive in school. My work with TORCH started almost by accident. When I first applied to the program as a freshman, I did not really know what I was getting myself into.

I will always remember the very first workshop I conducted at the age of fourteen, where I had the delightful experience of explaining the properties and functions of a condom to a group of highly impressionable nineteen year olds. I remember the terror I felt as a bony young boy of five-foot six, explaining a culturally taboo topic to a group of people that seemed eons older than I at the time. However, my fears and apprehensions quickly dissipated. Instead of ridicule, the group greeted me with an incredible amount of curiosity and respect. Over the course of the workshop, I answered questions such as “Should I use two condoms at the same time?” (and thoroughly explained why this is never an okay thing to do) and “Is it true that there are female condoms?” (Yes, it is in fact, true). At the end of the workshop, several people came up to me and thanked me sincerely for giving the presentation. It was then that I knew that I could make a large impact on the life and well-being of a community, even if it was on a small scale.

I work with TORCH because I have found that it continues to excite and surprise me. Whether it is educating my peers about safer sex or simply explaining the human fertilization process, I know that my work is both helpful and absolutely necessary. My work at TORCH has taught me the value of maturity, patience, personal accountability, collaborativeness, and kindness. Although TORCH only employs high school students, I hope to continue the work that I currently do in the future somehow, whether it is in college or the public health field, as I feel that I have a duty to empower youth with the necessary tools and information to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle.