Blog

"The List" and Its Impact

By Andie Lyons, Community Programs Director and Maximizing Success Project Director
May 4, 2016

Last week, Mathematica Policy Research, in collaboration with the Office of Adolescent Health, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and the Family and Youth Services Bureau, released the most recent findings on effectiveness of Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs. In other words – “The List” has officially been updated!

Prevention: A Limited Approach to Sex Ed

Prevention: A Limited Approach to Sex Ed

By Executive Director Lisa Olcese
April 28, 2016

Every May for the last 15 years, communities from across the country have come together in renewing our commitment to unintended teen pregnancy prevention, while also recognizing the progress we’ve made. And there is certainly progress to celebrate! With the national teen birth rate down by more than half since the early ‘90’s, and Colorado’s teen birth rate down by 48% in the past five years alone, it is clear that our efforts are working. Still, disparities persist among young people, and we must continue to work with and talk and listen to youth, so that we can change the conversation around sex ed to one of promoting overall youth sexual health - as opposed to simply preventing negative outcomes.

Spotlight On: Al Vernacchio

Spotlight On: Al Vernacchio

April 21, 2016

Al Vernacchio is a nationally recognized sexuality educator, author, and speaker. Al will be a special guest speaker at Colorado Youth Matter's Raising the Bar Conference, October 14-15th, 2016.


1) As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?


I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade. I was fascinated with Sr. Edward Kathleen’s black roll book. Each morning she would open the book and to my amazement all our names were in it! She would call the roll and go down the list marking each student present or absent. Each morning when she called my name and put her mark in the book I felt like my existence has been noticed and validated. There was only a brief period of time when I didn’t want to be a teacher; that was in fourth grade when I wanted to be the Pope, but by fifth grade I was back to wanting to be a teacher.

Youth Action Day: Raising Young People's Voices

Youth Action Day: Raising Young People's Voices

By Adrian Nava, Youth Advocacy Coordinator
April 14, 2016

April 12th marked Colorado Youth Matter’s 8th annual Youth Action Day at the Colorado State Capitol. For years, CYM has been committed to engaging youth by hosting Youth Action Day, where students from across the state gather at the capitol to learn how to lobby, what the legislative process looks like, and how to talk to legislators. This year, CYM was excited to invite a small group of the most committed youth activists to engage with legislators in a productive conversation about policies affecting youth sexual health.

Keep on Asking: The Lifelong Learning of the Askable Adult

Keep on Asking: The Lifelong Learning of the Askable Adult

By Lisa Olcese, Executive Director
March 31, 2016

Studies show that having a trusted, or “askable,” adult is an important protective factor for young people when it comes to sexual health. Youth with an Askable Adult are more likely to delay the onset of sexual activity, have fewer sexual partners, use effective birth control when they do have sex, and avoid drugs or alcohol during sex. These are powerful results that can positively influence young people for the rest of their lives.

So if we know talking to young people about sex is so important, why do we still hear false assumptions like “talking about sex encourages sex” or “girls are more responsible for condom use than boys” or “boys will be boys” yet “girls need to be careful”?

The State of Sex Ed in Colorado and Beyond

The State of Sex Ed in Colorado and Beyond

By Liz McKay, Policy and Education Intern
March 3, 2016

The healthy development of young people is inextricably linked with access to comprehensive sex education. Although negative sexual health outcomes among youth have been declining for decades, controversy still exists over whether young people should be allowed access to comprehensive sex education within their schools. Coloradans overwhelmingly support it: 88% of youth and 85% of parents voiced their support in recent surveys. In response, Colorado lawmakers have supported the sexual health and wellbeing of young people by enacting a policy requiring all schools that choose to teach sex education to utilize programs that are comprehensive and science-based.

The Sexual Health Cliff Effect

The Sexual Health Cliff Effect

By Becca Bolden, Research and Evaluation Manager
February 25th, 2016

The “Cliff Effect”. What does it make you think of? Approaching a wall of rock that can’t be climbed? Being pushed towards the edge of a steep mountain? How about battling a system designed to only allow you so much progress before denying you the support needed to go further?

Sexting: A Scandal?

Sexting: A Scandal?

By Lisa Olcese, Executive Director
January 11, 2016

Sexting has been going on for years. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, it first appeared as a term in 2007. This is the act of sending explicit messages or images via cell phone. Originally this was via text, but it quickly became an act of sending these messages or images via emails, social media messages and tweets as well. Most recently, there has been a lot of media attention on the topic of sexting among teens both in the US and abroad. These sexting “scandals” are far from scandals. 

Endless Questions: Supporting My Daughters

Endless Questions: Supporting My Daughters

By Adrah Levin
Board Member, Epidemiologist, and mother of two
December 3, 2015

I love watching my daughters grow. There is nothing more special than watching them discover new things, play with each other, and explore their world, always coming to me with endless questions. Right now they can ask me anything! I know that one day soon, their curiosity about their bodies, relationships and sex will start to increase, and while I may be able to talk to them about these things, they may not always want to turn to me.

Adding a Youth 360 Lens to Our Work

Adding a Youth 360 Lens to Our Work

By Becca Bolden, Research and Evaluation Manager
November 11, 2015

I had the great opportunity to attend the 2015 Healthy Teen Network Conference last month, called Youth 360: Where Youth Live, Work and Play Matters. Conferences like this one allow our staff to network with and learn from other organizations and agencies across the country committed not only to teen pregnancy prevention but to promoting youth health and well-being in a holistic way, a framework that can be easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day work of grant deliverables and email requests. It’s so important to remember the big picture of why we do what we do, and how to make sure that big picture gets integrated into our daily tasks and projects.

The conference kicked off with Dr. Steve Perry, an innovative educator who is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut, as well as an Education Contributor for CNN and MSNBC. He spoke about the impact of growing up with a teen mom, and despite his career success, the immense amount of luck he had avoiding young parenthood himself. He urged the audience to consider the fact that we also may have been lucky to have avoided teen parenthood, which I think came as a bit of a surprise to attendees at first. It makes sense that we tend to get caught up in our world of prevention that using a condom every time or getting an IUD or implant may seem like an obvious and beyond-easy choice for every single young person, regardless of their circumstances. Beyond simple – especially when you have fantastic and effective programs like the Colorado Family Planning Initiative in our home state.

But maybe that’s not the case. 

The Most Important Condom Demo

The Most Important Condom Demo

By Stefanie Slade Winfield, Colorado Youth Matter Senior Capacity Building Manager
September 30, 2015

I am no stranger to talking about sex.

Throughout my career, I have trained countless educators to teach sex ed. I have waxed poetic on the benefits of talking to youth about sex and answering all their questions, and have taught facilitators to coach parents on how to use teachable moments to initiate these important conversations with their children. I have shared with parents, friends and even strangers in the supermarket the importance of answering questions honestly and accurately. However, when I recently had the opportunity to share this information with members of my own family, I wondered if I really could practice what I preached and answer questions in value-neutral and supportive way – the way I teach others to do it.

A few weeks ago, I left from a Saturday Get Real Training of Facilitators to spend the night at my in-laws house where my nieces and their parents were visiting from Kentucky. When I went to my car later that afternoon to grab my overnight bag and saw the safer sex box I had received at the training, a light sparked for me. I asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to go through the box with me and her 2 daughters and was slightly surprised and extremely delighted that she said yes. My nieces are 17 and 15, and the younger is in the midst of her first romantic relationship. We all realized this was exactly the right time.

Spotlight on... Mary Jane Cassalia, CDPHE Youth Health Specialist

Spotlight on... Mary Jane Cassalia, CDPHE Youth Health Specialist

This month we want to take the time to spotlight the great work of one of Mary Jane Cassalia, Youth Health Specialist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), who has done a great job leading statewide efforts improving the quality and accessibility of sexual health services for young people in Colorado. Read on to find out more about Mary Jane and how you can get involved with the great work she is doing.

Briefly describe your background and how you got to your current position as Youth Health Specialist at CDPHE.

Sexual health has been a passion of mine since college and I have been fortunate to be able to follow this passion into a career. I began at a non-profit women’s clinic in Boulder, which led to graduate school and various internships, research and evaluation related to prevention and then my current role at CDPHE. Overall I am pursuing a career that will positively affect the health sector from multiple approaches, while continually partnering with direct services. I am motivated to help Coloradans make healthy choices and lead healthy lives. I am hoping that my work will help increase not only access to healthcare, but attitudes about it as well. Being at CDPHE and part of the group of talented and dedicated group of folks working to improve youth sexual health has been a highlight of my career thus far. As I embark on the next phase of my career (nursing), I look forward to seeing where my passions take me!

How to Encourage Young People to Undergo STI Testing

Guest blog post by Aimee King

One of the most difficult aspects of educating young people about sexual health is conveying the need for regular testing for STIs. As a recent university graduate who became involved in helping to educate people on this topic at school, this is something that's become clearer and clearer to me in recent years. Unfortunately, I've come to believe through my own experience that our society suffers from a deeply imperfect sexual education system whereby some young people are given so many warnings they end up scared of sex, and others are so inadequately prepared that they may not know how to protect themselves. But one thing that remains common for young people on both ends of the spectrum, and everywhere in between, is this: there's a scary and humiliating stigma attached to the idea of getting tested. Unlike when one gets a check-up for a common illness or something of the like, the idea of getting tested for an STI is unfortunately attached all to often to the idea that one is sexually reckless, or "dirty." Young people are occasionally hesitant to get tested simply because they don't want to project these unfair associations.

So how, as an educator or trusted adult, can you help to eliminate this stigma and persuade a young person that testing is not only necessary and healthy, but normal? Here are a few ideas of the approaches that can be most helpful.

Connecting Social and Emotional Learning with Sexual Health

Connecting Social and Emotional Learning with Sexual Health

I am Ruthie Kolb, the new Training Manager at Colorado Youth Matter, and I happy to be joining the team. In my previous career as a high school math teacher, I was once asked at a conference with fellow teachers to brainstorm 5 characteristics we hope students, once they exit our classrooms and the educational system, have to begin adulthood. We responded with strong character attributes, not academic achievements. Sure, we wanted our students to remember what we taught them – to use proper grammar in their cover letters and apply arithmetic to their finances. But in our wildest dreams, we were teaching them something more, something illusive, a little je ne sais quoi. My dream list looked like this:

ruthie blog image1

In fact, despite the difficulties facing researchers to define and measure intangibles, a study at the Virginia Commonwealth University found in 2010 that emotional intelligence was a greater predictor of a person’s working success than their IQ. Formerly, social and emotional intelligences were considered unteachable personality characteristics. People were either born with umpf, people skills, perseverance, and responsibility or they weren’t. 

But what if these were not set-in-stone characteristics, but rather trainable skills? What if we could write curricula in such a way that we were directly and indirectly teaching these personal attributes along with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What if, by mixing person-building and academic coursework, the students who formerly struggled academically began improving in all areas of their lives?

Proposed Federal Legislation Supporting Expectant and Parenting Students

Proposed Federal Legislation Supporting Expectant and Parenting Students

Supporting pregnant, expectant and parenting students is a vital aspect to improving youth sexual health outcomes and ensuring that all young people can reach their full potential. Title IX is meant to protect students’ education rights, including those that are expectant and parenting, but often falls short of doing so for this population, and as a result many young women cite pregnancy and parenthood as a reason for leaving school and delaying or not completing their education.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has announced plans to introduce an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), the Senate’s bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), that will require State and Local Education Agencies to create and implement plans to provide services and support to expectant and parenting students. We are pleased to see a step forward in national legislation that will increase accountability for supporting the unique educational needs of these students.

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