Teens Hope to Educate Peers on Safe Sex in Salem County

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School may be out for the summer, but a group of students from several high schools in Salem County are finally getting to see the final product of a project they’ve been working on for months.

Members of the Salem County Youth Wellness Collaborative, through the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, work to help keep teens healthy by giving them access to resources within the county.

“Salem County actually has the second highest rate for teen pregnancy and the fifth highest rate for STIs," said Victoria Terry, youth community engagement specialist at the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative.

"So, we figured in order to combat that it was really important to work with the youth to empower them to make healthier choices in order to make those changes in the county.” 

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So, months ago they set out to find local high school students to help achieve their mission.

“They were recommended by different administrators and faculty in the school as teens that are really affected in powering their teens and being peer educators,” said Terry.

And the nine students chosen were eager to learn.

“I know from health class they teach you about it, but you don’t really grasp it," said Myricle Chappell, senior at Penns Grove High School. "And for my school, they don’t grasp it at all.” 

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“We started by educating them," said Terry. "We developed a curriculum that covered things like STIs, teen pregnancy, healthy relationships, [and] healthy behaviors when it comes to sexual activities.” 

“I feel like I got a lot of information out of it because I didn’t know half the ways of preventing STIs or STDs or some of the diseases and infections that they actually had,” said Justin Hill, sophomore at Salem High School.

After the lessons, they decided to create a PSA and Friday, June 22nd, they got to see the final product for the first time.

“It’s a teacher explaining to the students about sexual activity and they don’t want to hear about this," said Terry. "But, then they start to think about how it relates to their lives.” 

And now the students involved hope it’ll help others understand how unprotected sex could impact their lives.

“When kids are in health class and they’re getting it from a teacher they’re not really caring or comprehending what’s going on," said Hill. "So, I feel like if a teen is ... telling students to do it I think they’ll connect with it more.” 

The PSA will be given to schools and local youth organizations to help educate all teens throughout Salem County.

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