Essay Contest Spotlights Young People’s Voices
Peer Health Exchange Chicago was pleased to receive many fantastic and thoughtful essays penned by high school students we serve, thanks to their participation in our Spring Essay Contest.
The contest aimed to ensure that young people’s voices continue to be represented in our work. We asked recent Peer Health Exchange alums in 9th grade to participate in the contest in which they responded to prompts reflecting on health issues young people face, making healthy decisions, and our influence on them, and their peers. Four essays were chosen as school winners. You can read Yareli’s essay reflecting on consent, asking for help, and mental health here.
College Partner Collaborations
With the close of the academic year, volunteers continued to engage in ways to make themselves more aware of their own identities and the work that is being done to advance health equity in the city of Chicago. At the University of Chicago, our volunteers invited board member Candice Norcott to speak about her work in developing gender-responsive and trauma-informed behavioral health services to women and adolescent girls. At the University of Illinois in Chicago, volunteers invited Planned Parenthood to further their content knowledge around sexual health and to better enable them to provide resources to the young people we work with. Northwestern University collaborated with the Social Justice Education department on campus to promote training on co-facilitation and microaggressions in the classroom.
In addition, Northwestern volunteers hosted a conversation with For Us By Us, a community for Black identifying women and non-binary folks which is dedicated to empowering individuals to be unapologetic in their black identities. The conversation centered around racial disparities in health education to better understand how volunteers can work against health inequities both on campus as students and in their work. We are proud of our volunteers for all of the hard work they have done this year, especially of the seniors that graduated from our program this year. We look forward to seeing you all next year!
Inclusive Curriculum Coalition Win
An important initiative that would ensure the inclusion of contributions and experiences of LGBTQIA+ people in Illinois public school history curriculum has been approved by the Illinois Senate!
As a supporting organization of the Inclusive Curriculum Bill (HB 246), Peer Health Exchange Chicago is encouraged by these efforts —led by Equality Illinois, The Legacy Project and Illinois Safe Schools Alliance—and applauds the tireless efforts of advocates and community leaders who worked to make this happen.
In the meantime, Peer Health Exchange will continue to ensure that our curriculum is inclusive of all races, gender identities, abilities, and sexual orientations.
For example, we updated our definition of sex and barrier methods to be more inclusive of the different ways young people may experience sexual activity and their bodies. We have also updated our curriculum to reflect a wider variety of identities represented in the stories and scenarios within the curriculum, with an eye toward reducing gendered and heteronormative scenarios.
The bill is now in consideration and action by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.