Engaging Students in Houston in Sexual Health Education and More

Young people participating in Change Happens teen pregnancy prevention prorgramAt the Jack Yates High School in Houston, enrollment for health classes now exceeds 200 students, with the addition of HYPE 2.0 (Helping Youth Prevent Engaging in Risky Behavior) to the school’s health curriculum. HYPE 2.0 teaches HIV/AIDS prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, abstinence, and adulthood preparation subjects. The Houston nonprofit Change Happens offers the program, which has seen a considerable increase in enrollment and interest since the organization received its second round of funding through the Competitive Personal Responsibility Education Program (CPREP) in 2015.

“So many people are hearing about how great our program is, and so many schools are wanting us to come in,” said Kelva Clay, program coordinator at Change Happens. Clay reports that through partnerships with the Houston Independent School District (Houston ISD) and YES Prep Public Schools, HYPE 2.0 reached 968 students ages 14-19 between 2015 and 2016, and has a goal of reaching 3,600 students by 2018.

“We’ve spent a lot of time overcoming barriers and building relationships in our school districts,” added Clay. Through doing demonstration presentations to teachers, attending school meetings, and presenting at health fairs, Change Happens has seen support for HYPE 2.0 grow, among both schools and students.

Clay highlighted that the students are “hungry for a place to talk about sexual health information.” HYPE 2.0 is adapted from the evidence-based curriculum BART (Becoming a Responsible Teen), an eight-session HIV/AIDS prevention curriculum developed for African American adolescents. HYPE 2.0 is a 12-week sexual health education program that also includes topics such as healthy relationships, educational and career success, and financial literacy.

Although BART is designed for African American youth, Change Happens has worked with the BART creators to make the HYPE 2.0 curriculum appropriate for Latino youth as well, which has contributed to increasing enrollment and engagement in the program. To help participating students become familiar with the health educators and each other, Change Happens added an initial engagement session that features icebreakers. Clay reported that a session on anatomy was incorporated after it became apparent that many youth did not know the appropriate terms for their body parts.

Four health educators along with one contractor go into Houston ISD and YES Prep health classes at least three times a week to teach HYPE 2.0. Giving away HYPE 2.0 water bottles, backpacks, or T-shirts sparks conversations about the program between new and current students.

As Clay reported, the youth participating in HYPE 2.0 are excited to talk about what they are learning, often sharing with their peers and even their parents. Parents learn how to use these opportunities with their kids to talk about risky behaviors and safe sex practices, which are also discussed during the parent nights that Change Happens hosts.

Clay emphasized that the program is serving “the total child” and that “the schools say that we are making a difference in the students, and in their health education.”

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