Posted on May 15, 2019 | Nadia Gold-Moritz, Young Women's Project
Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.
Young Women’s Project (YWP) builds the leadership and power of young people so they can transform DC institutions to expand rights and opportunities for DC youth. Through youth educator engagement, civic engagement and capacity-building trainings, and its Youth Vote Campaign, Young Women’s Project invests in those who have been most deeply impacted by decades of racist policies and lack of opportunities, neglected public systems, and poverty to transform lives and institutions to bring about equality and opportunity, health and well-being, and respect for young women and men.
On April 9th, 22 youth health educators from YWP presented testimony to the DC Council Committee on Health as part of the budget oversight hearing to the Department of Health. The testimonies included stories and information about the state of sexual health in the DC public schools and encouraged Council members to allocate resources to improve school-based sexual health education and services. Youth educators recommended expanding health education instruction, increasing availability of feminine products in school bathrooms, increasing the number of school-based clinics, and continuing to fund the wages of youth educators through the Youth Health Educator Program (YHEP).
The youth educators represent all wards and nine public high schools, including Banneker, McKinley, Wilson, Bell, Friendship, Dunbar, Chavez-Parkside, Banneker, and School Without Walls. Now in its seventh year, YHEP engages DC youth as peer educators and advocates who work to improve health outcomes and reduce unplanned pregnancy by expanding comprehensive sexuality education, ensuring access to community and school-based health care, and developing supportive policies. YHEP hires more than 250 youth each year from 24 DC public high schools who work in their schools and communities educating their peers, distributing condoms, and referring youth to clinics. Working in partnership with DC Public Schools and the Department of Health (DOH), YHEP educators earn $8.25-$9.25 an hour, and receive more than 100 hours each year of training in sexual health, STI/HIV prevention, peer education, contraception, long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), clinic referrals, counseling, facilitation, adult-youth partnership, project development, data collection and other issues.
“Peer educators can relate to other young people. We all go through the same situations and we can give advice. We are a non-judgmental people and we can teach our peers from 9th graders to 12th graders, young people who should already have knowledge about sex but know the minimum. Here in YWP we go in deep conversation about important topics. I feel lucky to be here, not every teen gets this opportunity,” said Daniela Alvarez, a junior at Columbia Heights Educational Campus.
Since August, youth educators conducted 34,895 educational interventions with 8,724 youth; distributed 108,273 condoms and other safer sex materials; and made 2,590 individual clinic referrals. The YHEP is currently partnering with 22 schools, 6 are in Ward 7. About half of the young people we hire live or go to school in wards 5, 7 and 8.
“Being a peer educator is an opportunity to advocate for myself and for my peers. We do not have many opportunities to make our views heard – and so when I get the chance, I like to express my views. A lot of youth think they don’t have a voice or they don’t know how to voice their concerns about certain things,” said Layla Adams who is a sophomore at Friendship Collegiate. “The YWP trainings give us a platform to express ourselves as opposed to school, an institution where you’re just taught to do what is expected of you. At YWP, we have the space to communicate our feelings and thoughts and we know that we’re listened to. For a long time, I didn’t know how to use my voice. It is programs like YWP that taught me that I have a voice, especially for young women. It helps me to learn more about myself and how to act in personal situations. I am very outspoken, and I think my ideas can be helpful.”
For more information about YWP’s Youth Health Educator Program, please contact Rachel Nichols at Rachel.Nichols@youngwomensproject.org.
Nadia Gold-Moritz has led Young Women’s Project since 1994 as its founding director, growing the organization from a budget of $20,000 to $500,000 and designing and implementing programs that have launched thousands of teen women leaders and moved key social justice initiatives in foster care, reproductive health, sexual harassment, and other issues. Before launching the Young Women’s Project, Nadia worked as a Project Manager at the Institute for Women’s Project Research, focusing on young women’s issues and organizing regional trainings and leadership building projects. Nadia graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Writing and Women’s Studies. When she is not in the office, she is managing the leadership development of her own two little rebels Sasha and Elijah.