Four Chicago tenth-grade students honored for their powerful testimonies at Peer Health Exchange’s Celebrating Youth Voices

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Whether advocating for a friend, communicating about consent or making a real-time decision about their mental health—four Chicago tenth-grade students were celebrated for their powerful testimonies November 1, describing the very real choices they face as young people, and how Peer Health Exchange encouraged them to think differently about their health.

Whether advocating for a friend, communicating about consent or making a real-time decision about their mental health—four Chicago tenth-grade students were celebrated for their powerful testimonies November 1, describing the very real choices they face as young people, and how Peer Health Exchange encouraged them to think differently about their health.

Celebrating Youth Voices brought together the city’s philanthropic, education, and youth advocate leaders, in support of Peer Health Exchange’s work throughout Chicago. The event featured remarks from CICS Northtown Academy student Yareli Avila, a Peer Health Exchange participant in the 2018-2019 program year.

“Consent is a broad term so it doesn't necessarily only apply to sex,” said Avila. “I recently talked to a friend who explained how her boyfriend wanted to take things even further than just kissing. She said she wasn’t ready for that, but by her denying his request he made her feel like she didn't actually love him. I immediately remembered my PHE class and how pressuring someone into doing something is abusing our consent.”

Avila went on to share how participating in Peer Health Exchange shifted her mindset, and encouraged her to advocate for healthy behaviors in her community.

The celebration held at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, marked the beginning of Peer Health Exchange’s program year. Attendees also heard from Peer Health Exchange Chicago Board Member Dr. Candice Norcott, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Reproductive Health.

“Essay writing and writing, in general, is a tool that is often used to facilitate learning and recovery,” said Norcott. “Narratives have power. In the telling, you can see perspectives and paths that you perhaps did not see before. They offer the opportunity for teachable moments that can enhance the understanding of your struggles, and help reduce stigma from others.”

Other students honored for their work included Ayobami Omidiji for her essay on mental health; Keshawn Price who wrote about gender identity in support of inclusive spaces; and Zaria Washington who described the importance of safe sex practices.

Since 2007, Peer Health Exchange has delivered effective skills-based health education to more than 36,000 ninth graders across Chicago. This year, we will provide our health curriculum to 3,600 students in more than 25 Chicago Public Schools high schools. Our valued partners are committed to bridging gaps youth experience in accessing high-quality, free, and affordable healthcare. Our partners include Northwestern University, University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, CPS, and hospitals and community health centers across the city.

Peer Health Exchange is grateful for our event sponsor Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

About Peer Health Exchange

Peer Health Exchange’s mission is to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions. We do this by training college student volunteers to teach a skills-based health curriculum in under-resourced high schools across the country.

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Adriana Díaz
@PeerHealthExch
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