A workshop held at both Campbell River high schools recently looks to open up the conversation and address the needs of youth and their sexual health to educators and parents. Photo by Braden Majic/Carihi Mirror

Giving students a voice in the sexual health conversation

Workshops encourage youth to have an open and honest discussion

Braden Majic

Carihi Mirror

Youth workshops held recently at Carihi and Timberline were just the beginning of giving students a voice during a shift in sexual education.

The workshop for students was facilitated Oct. 12 by Jennifer Gibson, community coordinator for Island Sexual Health. She has been teaching sexual health from students in kindergarten all the way up to those in universities and has brought her to Campbell River to do the same for students here.

“Sexual health has been shifted through the curriculum from health and career education back to physical and health education, and so I think that one of the things is that youth have a voice in how that education is delivered,” Gibson said. “My understanding is there has been a gap with Louise [Walker, registered nurse] only being called up to middle school, that there has been a gap in high school in the teaching.”

Walker is a familiar face and name to students and adults in the community and has done sexual health lessons at multiple schools over the years.

Her lessons focus on the topic of healthy relationships to teach ideas surrounding sexual wellness from kindergarten to middle schools throughout the district.

“Students hate the scare tactics,” Walker said. “Some of it can be boring…but [I] try and make [the lesson] not too scary and that it’s actually a special relationship.”

Students of multiple grades filled up a classroom to take part in a sexual health bingo activity, group discussion, and question time for the various people resources in the school and community. These workshops were intended to open up the conversation of sexual health and discuss what students’ needs are based on their feedback and will further include educators and parents as well in this pivotal time in education during a second round of workshops in November.

“It’s normal to be wherever you are at [with sexual health], whether you’re not comfortable, you’re super comfortable, you’re somewhere in-between, wherever you’re at is good,” Gibson said. “That’s what we are trying to do with our youth is build villages they can connect to.”

As new curriculum is being implemented into B.C.’s school system and topics are getting moved around. Sexual health at the high school level is no longer being taught alongside careers, but has returned back to physical education curriculum.

The idea behind delivering sexual health education to students is to address their concerns, and provide them with resources that they can use for their entire life.

“So by talking about it, we’re helping them, educating them,” Walker said.

Since last June, a youth clinic of nurses from Island Health have been available to students at Carihi on the first Tuesday of every month, providing services like testing for sexually-transmitted infections, talking about birth control, or even to answer questions.

“The more knowledge youth have, the better choices they make,” Gibson said. “I think as adults, we can’t expect them to make good choices if we withhold information from them.”

Gibson explained that a lot of the work to build the foundation for understanding of sexual health is being done at home with parents setting examples, telling their children how to treat one another, and communicating with them.

“Really this is relationship education, this is communication,” Gibson said. “This is all about communication skills youth are going to use.”

She added that the goal is to begin to “have conversations that are personal, but that can start at arm’s length and work inwards.”

The Island Sexual Health facilitator will be hosting an in-service with educators on Nov. 6 from the two high schools and Robron to inform them and discuss the concerns and questions youth have made and also provide herself as a resource to answer their own questions.

That same day a gathering will be held at the Timberline Theatre from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with refreshments.

This event will allow for Gibson to answer any questions parents may have about their child’s sexual health, how to deliver it at home, and how parents can get connected to resources within the community for all stages and needs of sexual health knowledge.

For more information on the upcoming evenings or to find answers to these questions for yourself, contact the Gibson by email jgibson@islandsexualhealth.org

Carihi Mirror