I joined the STARS program my junior year of high school, which was also the pilot year. Going into the program, I had no idea what to expect, or what it meant to be a mentor to someone. Despite my oblivion, the great energy and excitement the coordinators brought with each meeting incentivized me to stay. After the first few meetings, about three things were clear. One, that STARS was an organization of Students Teaching About Relationships and Success, high schoolers mentoring eighth graders. Two, simply showing an eighth grader that a high schooler in interested in helping improve their lives or being a listening ear is powerful in itself. And lastly, it was clear that this is a program I’d want to be a part of for as long as I could, which is why I joined again this school year.
Each week, we mentors meet to discuss the designated mentor session, then meet again with the eighth grade class to engage in the session’s activities. Before we enter the room, we always make sure to be mindful in emanating positive energy, and to greet the mentees with a smile and enthusiasm. We all remember the pains of being an eighth grader. The acne, the bad hair, the braces, being too tall or too shy to fit in, and not knowing who you are, stuck in the awkward phase of transitioning into a mature high school. We often remind them that we’ve all played that game before, and we’re there to give them all the rules.
Over the summer of 2015, I and the other mentors traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the STARS National Conference. There, we met many other teen mentors from other states. Though complete strangers, we all became quickly acquainted with one another, building relationships and sharing our experiences with mentoring. We attended inspiring workshops, amusement parks, and other events that brought us all even closer than we were before. The conference maintained high energy, and there was never a dull moment seeing teens from all over all come together with one thing in common, which is the love of being a mentor.
Guest blogger, Breonna Walker, 2nd year mentor with PATH's STARS Mentoring program
We live in a highly sexualized society. There are sexy Instagram accounts, YouTube Channels, and sexy advertisements plastering our communities. Sex is everywhere, accessible, and visible in every area of media. The pop culture perception is teenagers are sexually charged and engaging in such behaviors at an early age. However, new research in 2015 from the CDC has shown more teens are waiting to have sex.
The federal government research shows less than half of teenagers, ages 15-19, are having sex. In fact only, 44 percent of girls and 47 percent of boys had intercourse at least once between 2011 and 2013. This has decreased since 1988 when 51 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys were having sexual intercourse as teens.
The AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s scared a lot of teenagers into waiting to have sex. It launched the “safe sex” movement. Also due to high teen pregnancy rates, the pregnancy prevention education became a part of the “safe sex” education. Those efforts did help to decrease the percentage of teens who were sexually active, but is that why teens are waiting to have sex? Is there more?
An independent study, through the Barna Research Group, was conducted after seeing the number of sexually active teens decrease in the last twenty years. It revealed, through a deeper study, that teens are waiting to have sex for more reasons than just “I’m scared about getting an STD” or “I don’t want to get pregnant.” In fact, research showed 42% of teenagers who chose not to have sex, did so for “personal values.”
Research also shows teenagers are thinking more critically about their decision to wait to have sex. Fear is no longer the driving the factor, but personal values.
“PATH is committed to bringing age appropriate and medically accurate information to youth that will empower them to make healthy choices. Our evaluation data confirms that as youth recognize their value and potential, they are more likely to make choices that will support their future rather than making risky decisions that can put their future at risk.” shared Donna Golob, Executive Director of PATH, Inc.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.