IRHI Teen Program Continues to Prosper

by Gray Gailey

OIHS junior class president

2020 and 2021 were unprecedented years that presented changes and adjustments to life as we know it. For those of us in the Island Reproductive Health Initiative Teen Program, we were faced with a set of unfamiliar challenges. Because of quarantine, club members were unable to hold our in-person Wednesday meetings or conduct classroom IRHI presentations about safe sex and how to put condoms on bananas or provide birth control presentations by doctors. With social distancing and virtual classrooms, many students were left with a feeling of uncertainty and unhappiness, but the IRHI community provided a way for students to share their emotions. With a safe space to turn to, members were excited to meet, even if it was only online.

Thanks to our excellent set of past leaders, Asifa Pasin and teen reps Sofia Fleming and Hazel Moe, IRHI was able to stay up and running during the height of COVID. Every other Wednesday, devoted members logged onto a Google Meet to plan for IRHI’s future, despite the uncertainty. Moe, Pasin, and Fleming were able to keep the energy alive, even over Google Meet, and found creative ways to educate our public high school students about reproductive health. Perhaps the most exciting and engaging presentation was a school-wide game of Jeopardy. All questions were related to sexual health and health care, and the winner received $50. The game was met with high engagement and students walked away with loads of valuable knowledge.

When our hybrid schedule kicked off at the public school, IRHI got right back into the groove of in-person presentations. This trying time also offered much time to reflect on the importance of IRHI. We presented to the 10th grade health class, educating about STDs and STIs, but many of the usual presentations we planned on had to be canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The pandemic made us realize how important our mission is. We are motivated to ensure students are educated when it comes to sexual health and safety, and we plan to work hard to make up for the time that’s been lost over the last years.

Membership and participation remained high during COVID, but everyone was excited to return in person. An activity we do during each meeting exemplifies this perfectly: At the beginning of every meeting, each member is asked to give one word that describes how they’re feeling. At our first meeting, descriptors like “excited,” “happy,” and “enthusiastic,” bubbled up, perfectly setting the tone for the rest of this year.

This year has been a welcome relief from the complications and loneliness of 2020 for many students. We’ve had several successful meetings so far, and have received a great influx of members, a warm contrast to the past two years. The new group is positive and passionate about the upcoming year, and we’ve already begun excitedly planning the events and activities that have been so missed. And, we are grateful for the support of our school and island community.