Far too often, LGBT youth are overlooked in the development and delivery of sexuality education programs, with the result that they lack the information and tools they need to make healthy, informed decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health. In 2017, NIRH partnered with the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania and the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania to provide LGBT-centered comprehensive sexuality education to a cohort of students, as well as to provide them with advocacy training so they would be able to call for this sort of curriculum in their high schools.
After receiving their training, staff at NIRH and the two partner organizations worked with the young people to hone their personal stories and settle on an ask for school leaders. In September 2017, eight LGBT students were invited to share their stories and present on their needs at the annual convening of superintendents from across Pennsylvania. After they successfully presented to more than 50 officials, the superintendents invited the youth to present at their individual schools and requested referrals of LGBT-inclusive curricula. Based on their experience, the youth created a “train the trainer” workshop that they offered at Temple University, enabling other young LGBT students to replicate their work in their own schools.
Beyond the impact this partnership will have at schools in Central Pennsylvania and beyond, our partners wrote that the young people in this project “are often misunderstood, bullied, and rejected in traditional youth social circles. This initiative helped them understand more about their own sexuality and how to communicate with others about their similarities, differences, and needs. But more importantly, it enabled them to elevate their personal issues to a higher level and to develop the skills needed to stand up and advocate for those issues.”