• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Eduvation (SHAPE)

SHAPE is a pilot project designed to train adolescents at The Met, a local alternative high school in South Providence, to become peer health educators. Throughout the fall semester, six Brown volunteers will train and mentor a group of 10-12 Met students after school on topics ranging from anatomy, STIs, and contraception to dating, gender and sexuality, and body image. In the spring semester, Met peer educators will begin facilitating sexual health education workshops in freshmen classes. Brown volunteers will then transition into the role of supporting the peer educators, helping them prepare for workshops, and shadowing them in the classroom to help manage students and ensure that the information the peer educators are presenting is accurate.

It is our hope that by using the model of peer-to-peer health education the program will help to reduce STI and pregnancy rates at the Met by empowering students to take control of their health, and establishing social norms at the school that encourage practicing safer sex.

Personal Statement

I began teaching sexual health education classes as a sophomore in high school with a program called PASHEN (Peers Advocating Sexual Health Education Now).  This group of 15 students taught sex education classes for all entering freshman at our high school in Berkeley, CA.  As a peer educator, I received extensive training on all aspects of sexual health, including anatomy, contraception, STIs, and HIV.  But beyond this technical health eduction, the program gave me the opportunity to become part of an amazing group of students.  They were diverse in age, experience, and background, and were empowering the school, each other, and themselves to make safer decisions about their sexual health. 

When I came to Brown, I began teaching sex education classes at The Met, a local alternative high school, through a program called PHASE (Peer HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Education).  While I came to the class with the same conviction about the importance of sexual education I had held in high school, it was clear that my position in the classroom had changed dramatically.  Rather than facilitating classes as a peer, I was now speaking much more as an authority figure. Students were learning vital information about how to use birth control or how STI’s are spread, but I felt I was having a much smaller impact on helping establish social norms that would encourage students to actually use this information to protect themselves.

The idea for the peer education program was born out of this disconnect.  Since my co-coordinator, Samantha Carter, and I both had been peer sex educators ourselves in high school, we had a similar understanding of the motivating force this experience could have for high school students.  We were driven to bring a similar program to the Met school that would work to establish safer sex norms within the school, and help create and support new group of student leaders at The Met.