We Will Stand Together for Our Youth
By Andrea Miller, Executive Director
November 10, 2016
Throughout the day yesterday I listened to the media, friends, and colleagues dissect and analyze what happened on Tuesday night. There was disbelief, shock, sadness, and anger. Morning traffic was lighter on Wednesday, as if people were staying home to mourn, regroup, or just keep the rest of the world out with the curtains closed. I don’t blame them. I, too, felt that sadness and disbelief. I thought I had woken up in an alternate universe. I was sure that we would find out there was some sort of computer glitch. Alas, this is our new reality. So what do we do now? Do we sit and mire in the grief over the next four years? Do we assume there’s nothing we can do, but wait for time to pass? Quite the contrary. This is a time for action, a time to move swiftly as advocates and supporters for the youth in our state.
Colorado Youth Matter will continue to strengthen and build our network of collaborators, supporters and constituents. While other states took steps backwards, we will move forward. We will be a role model for others in the field. We will work towards progress to create a positive and nurturing environment for youth sexual health. We have made great strides in training, advocacy and education. We will not stop now!
Today, after the election we have to recognize that there are real opportunities and real threats to the work of ensuring that all youth in Colorado have access to effective, medically accurate and science-based sexual health education and services. While CYM works diligently to fully understand the impacts this election will have on the federal funding that is supporting sexual health programming, or the laws that protect youth while accessing services, or access to clinics that provide reproductive health services, I’m calling upon you to be a part of this movement. Volunteer, give, and support our youth. The 2016 State of Adolescent Sexual Health in Colorado report provides recommendations for action:
1. Promote the use and collection of youth sexual health research and data to inform decision making about effective programs and prioritizing resources. Local advocacy can focus on school district participation in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to better understand student behavior, health and well-being. On a state and national level, encourage policy makers to continue funding the evaluation of innovative and promising programs to meet the needs of underserved youth.
2. Provide Trusted Adult trainings for families and youth-serving professionals in your community to ensure that youth have identified adults with whom they feel safe to talk to about their health and well-being, and set the tone for positive and nonjudgmental conversations about sexual health early and often throughout a young person’s life.
3. Support a holistic approach to youth health and well-being by ensuring linkages and accessibility between education and healthcare services. Sexual health education should occur in conjunction with comprehensive health education so that youth understand all aspects of health, including safe relationships, STI prevention, family planning, decision-making, and goal-setting.
4. Promote opportunities for youth leadership development in safe and supportive environments so that youth find value in school and may reach their full potential.
5. Integrate positive youth development and trauma-informed approaches to be responsive to the needs of young people and fully incorporate their voice in programs and policies that impact their health and well-being, especially for LGBT students and young families.
6. Advocate for continued, and in some locations increased, funding and political support of clinics that provide vital sexual health services to youth and their families, including but not limited to Title X Family Planning Clinics, School-Based Health Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and Planned Parenthood clinics. Accessible clinical services are essential to reducing disparities and promoting health equity for all young people in Colorado.
At the bottom of all staff emails it states, "Strengthening leadership and advancing the movement for youth sexual health." Every time you see an email from us, scroll down, read this sentence. Take it in and know that we will work together to accomplish this mission. The youth of Colorado are counting on us.