Everyone deserves to feel understood and supported in navigating the challenges of growing up. That’s why In highlighting North Star Youth Partnership, a program of Catholic Charities, equips youth with the knowledge and skills they need to be confident and make healthy choices. During the 2021-2022 school year alone, North Star served over 2,500 students in Maricopa County.
Sexual Risk Avoidance Education
The program provides Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) to junior high and high school students using medically accurate information and curricula approved by both the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. Students engage in discussions, videos and activities about healthy relationships, goal-setting, decision-making, setting boundaries, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), teen pregnancy, risks of non-marital sexual activity, and avoidance of risk-taking behaviors.
The goal is to give students a safe space where their voices and questions can be heard. All material is inclusive and non-stigmatizing, creating a respectful, non-judgmental environment. Educators are eager to learn from their students as well, asking them to share any parenting advice on the last day of class.
North Star Success Stories
Although staff typically don’t get to see the long-term impact they make on their students, two past students were so appreciative of the program that they became North Star educators themselves. Both of them expressed what a positive impact the program had on them and how it helped them make better life decisions.
It’s clear from how North Star students talk about their educators just how much the program has shaped their lives. “Thank you. I was in a relationship, and my partner wanted to do things I wasn’t okay with. As a result, I ended the relationship,” said a high school student.
It’s the appreciation students show that remind staff they’re making a difference. On the last day of class, a junior high student walked up to his North Star educator, shook her hand and thanked her. Students say they are grateful for the fun and lack of judgement teachers bring to the classroom.
Teens Feel Prepared for Adulthood
Thanks to North Star Youth Partnership, students are better equipped to hold boundaries, ask for respect and use the skills learned in class. They are better prepared to look out for and leave unhealthy situations.
If you’d like to support the important work of North Star and its educators, see our Amazon Charity List. You can donate items directly to our Catholic Charities offices to ensure youth have what they need to succeed.
Cristy Leonard is the Health Education Supervisor in Maricopa for North Star Youth Partnership. Cristy earned her bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and has been teaching for 25 years. She has been providing Health Education through North Star Youth Partnership to teens throughout the Valley since 2003.