Building a movement for health equity—fall at Peer Health Exchange Bay Area

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month now through mid-October, we were delighted to learn that Miriam-Webster has officially added the word ‘Latinx’ to its dictionary. Like many young people, scholars, advocates, and journalists, Peer Health Exchange already uses the more inclusive term, having taken our lead from young LGBTQ+ Latin American descendants. The dictionary’s latest entry confirms not only that the word ‘Latinx’ is used by many people who all agree that it means the same thing, but also, and more importantly, that language—like the concept of identity—is always changing and evolving.

Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, class, ability, religion and all of the intersections of our selves shape our experiences in the world. At Peer Health Exchange, we believe every young person’s identity deserves to be acknowledged and affirmed.

With health equity top of mind, we are constantly striving for better health outcomes for young people by building more inclusive spaces for our students to feel safe and accepted. Through our rigorous training, near-peer educators build meaningful connections, lead open and candid conversations, and provide honest answers to ninth graders about their health. But we also know that to deliver a truly comprehensive health curriculum, recruiting and retaining a volunteer corps who share similar life experiences with students and can advocate for their unique cultural and linguistic needs is important.

In San Francisco Public Schools, Latinxs make up nearly 27 percent of the student population. We are striving to ensure those students can see themselves in our volunteers. Partnering with near-peer health educators at California State University, East Bay; University of California at Berkeley; San Francisco State University; and Stanford University, we’re working to increase the number of Black and Latinx near-peer educators we recruit. Our goal this year: 30 percent of our total volunteer corps reflecting those identities—diversifying our corps in a way we never have before.

Join us this month and every month in honoring the many contributions and importance of Latinx young people in our classrooms. Also please help us reach promising volunteers at these four university chapters and spread the word about our applications—which close soon!

In Solidarity,

Liam Day
Bay Area Executive Director

Dear Friends of PHE,

“I believe you. I am here for you.”

If a young person discloses they’ve survived sexual violence, we need to listen to them and help them access support. With the Kavanaugh hearings happening this week, young people across the country are disclosing and discussing their own experiences, and it’s as important a time as ever to make space for and empower them.

Young people ages 16 to 19 are 3 ½ times more likely to be sexually assaulted. Those numbers are even higher for LGBTQ+ youth and those from communities of color. Already more vulnerable than adults they navigate trauma uniquely. Regardless of age, the impact of sexual assault has lasting effects, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “rape is about four times more likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat.”

Amidst all the conversation nationally, I’m reminded why we teach consent—a clear ‘yes’ at every step of sexual activity—to more than 17,000 young people in classrooms across the U.S. Every student has a right to have the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to make healthy decisions about their bodies—and how to treat each other with dignity and respect.

This fall, Peer Health Exchange will welcome hundreds of new college volunteers who join our shared movement towards health equity. By leading workshops in ninth grade classrooms, these near-peer health educators help reinforce each young person’s sense of agency and build up skills in communication and decision-making. Understanding and supporting consent is essential to ensuring the health and safety of all young people.

Please join me in showing up for young people including survivors by sharing resources, letting them know they’re not alone, or simply listening without judgment.

Interested in learning more? Join us on a workshop visit, or connect with staff or volunteers to learn more.

With gratitude,

Louise Langheier
Co-Founder and CEO

San Francisco State University volunteer Eric Seredian.

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