January's Power Player
Here at Power to Decide, we are committed to uplifting the many individuals who are on the ground doing the work that matters most. Each month we'll highlight an individual or organization who is championing the effort to give young people the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant. Check out this month's Power Player profile.
Executive Director, Health Care Education and Training
Q1: What work have you done to ensure that young people have access to high quality sexual health information or high quality contraceptive services so that they can decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant?
A1: I am incredibly proud of all of our adolescent health work, which ensures access to evidence based teen pregnancy/STD/HIV prevention programs. That said, we've made incredible progress in bringing collaboratively-delivered programs to youth in foster care and in juvenile detention. These youth have a much higher rate of teen pregnancy and accompanying risk factors and it's truly wonderful to work with the agencies serving these kids. We work closely with our community based partners and implementation sites to ensure high quality programs delivered by excellent facilitators with fidelity. We regularly evaluate the implementation and use data and feedback to drive the delivery so that youth receive the best program possible.
Q2: How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
A2: My two years in focused service learning with AmeriCorps solidified my entrance into social work and non-profits. My own personal and professional encounters with lack of access to reproductive health care and education led me to focus my efforts on access. My driving force is the belief that reproductive and sexual health is an essential piece of overall individual and community health, yet it is often the first left out of the conversation.
Q3: What advice would you give to someone looking to impact change in the field that you currently work in?
A3: Be careful about the silos in this work. Be sure to look for intersections with other health issues and sectors. Don’t think about advocacy as something that just looks one way, or something you can’t do. It can be quiet and loud, large scale and small—build and sustain relationships at all levels, you never know who will be your next champion or important connection.
Q4: Why should someone care about ensuring that all people—regardless of who they are or where they live—have access to the information and contraception they need to live their best life story?
A4: The economic and social costs to the many young people affected by a lack of access, their families, social programs, the workforce, and education systems are steep. Access to contraception and education could, however, change the trajectory. Access and high quality evidence-based sex and relationship education should be a central piece to all community development and health initiatives.
Q5: Is there a highlight about your work in conjunction with our organization that you’d like to share?
A5: I truly value our partnership with the Power to Decide. It is reciprocal and always serves to further our individual and collective goals. I fondly remember our collaborative event at Indiana Black Expo many years ago that started teen pregnancy prevention session with legislators, youth, funders, and community and culminated with a listening tour with faith based, family planning, and agencies serving young men. It was a timely impetus and a lot of work that developed from that event endures today. We depend on Power to Decide to be our warriors in D.C. and to keep us up to date with policy and data changes.
*Responses have been edited for clarity.