Skip to main content

The Impact of Sex Education: Hear from Youth at ETR's RYSE Innovation Hub!

The Impact of Sex Education: Hear from Youth at ETR's RYSE Innovation Hub!

By Jessica Neupane, MPH | May 21, 2024
Marketing & Communications Coordinator, ETR

May marks Sex Ed for All Month, which is an opportunity to voice our shared commitment to a world where all young people get equitable access to the education and care they deserve, no matter who they are or where they live.

Sexual health education and programs that are LGBTQIA+ inclusive, medically accurate, and culturally relevant for all youth are often inaccessible for young people. In fact, only 29 states and Washington, DC require that sex education is taught in schools. In states where it is taught, 12 states do not require it to be medically accurate, age appropriate, or evidence informed.

When we commit to sexual health education being representative of diverse identities and experiences, it is more effective in reducing teen pregnancies and STIs and will further incentivize them to prioritize their personal wellbeing. However, we can’t do this without relying on the lived experience and perspectives of those we are creating programs for. Young people are the primary stakeholders in their wellbeing and deserve to have a seat at the table!

One of ETR’s newest initiatives, The Reimagining Young People’s Sexual Health Equity (RYSE) Innovation Hub, is a multi-year project that will fund cohorts of Innovation Development Teams to conceptualize, develop, test, and package innovations geared toward addressing equity issues in adolescent sexual health. Right now, we are collaborating with Youth Innovation Advisors (YIAs) located across the country to ensure that our Hub centers youth voice and cultural relevance in the innovations we are supporting.

Hear from Our Youth Innovation Advisors!

For this blog edition, we are featuring two of our RYSE YIAs, Arely and Ariel, who lend their voices to us this month to share why this project and Sex Ed for All Month is meaningful to them.

Arely Ceja (she/her) is a feminist studies major at The University of California at Santa Cruz and works as a peer health educator on campus. She additionally served on ETR’s Youth Engagement Network as a youth researcher for the 2022-2023 cohort and has dedicated much of her time to ensuring youth can access sexual health programs and services.

When asked about her personal sexual health education experience, she notes,

“My sexual health education was very minimal and often was seen as taboo. The conversations were uncomfortable, and the curriculum was largely based on reproduction and the sexual relationship between a man and woman; it glossed over topics such as consent, sexual orientation, gender identity, and relationships. The information was detached and did not show the diverse experiences and needs of students,”

“Sex Ed for All means creating an essential foundation in fostering an educated, safe, and respectful society. Sex education should empower young people, us, and everyone with knowledge about their bodies, relationships, and choices, hopefully making it possible for them to make informed decisions related to their health and lead healthier lives.

Ariel Shorter (she/her) noted a similar experience, stating,

My sexual health education was pretty much nonexistent. Like many other Black youth, I was forced to learn sexual health information through my peers and the internet. This lack of formal education left gaps in my understanding and instilled a sense of insecurity about my body and health,”

“To me, Sex Ed for All means that young people, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, have access to information about sexual health that is appropriate and comprehensive.”

Ariel is a Chicago native and recent graduate from Xavier University. One of her goals is to create sexual health workshops for youth and elders in assisted living facilities, in an effort to increase multigenerational discussions on sexual health and wellness. As a 2022-2023 member of ETR's Black Public Health Influencer Fellowship, she is passionate about using education to reduce the stigma she experienced around this topic and her fellowship helped her understand how education helps young people make decisions that work best for their bodies and health.

Achieving Health Equity through Sex Education

Our Youth Innovation Advisors see The RYSE Innovation Hub as an opportunity to fill gaps around sexual health education access across the country. With an 800% increase in anti-sex education bills passed into law compared to 2022, and 66% of introduced bills dedicated to restricting sex education access, this work is critical to execute on a grassroots level, this year and beyond. The YIAs understand how this work can impact all youth with Ariel sharing,

“My involvement with the RYSE Innovation Hub has the potential to directly influence the resources and support available to young people today. I see this as an opportunity to ensure that no young person endures the uncertainty and misinformation that I did. By participating in RYSE, I can help create a future where young adults feel informed, respected, and valued in their journey toward understanding their sexual health and rights.”

As the RYSE project team works to identify and fund Innovation Development Teams to support this work, let us use Sex Ed for All Month to reaffirm our commitment to centering youth voices in sex education.

By doing so, we can work towards a reality where all young people have access to comprehensive, inclusive, and empowering sexual education that equips them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make healthy choices and lead fulfilling lives. When we empower youth to share their perspectives, experiences, and needs, it is clear we can pave the way for transformative and inclusive sex education that is meaningful for young people.

More Information

Sex Ed for All Month is made possible by the Sex Education Collaborative (SEC), of which ETR is a proud member. The SEC represents 26 national, regional, and state-based organizations with extensive experience training educators to deliver school-based sex education. To learn more, check out:

The RYSE Innovation Hub is funded by the Office of Population Affairs. To learn more about federal grants supporting teen pregnancy prevention, click here!

To learn more about the RYSE Innovation Hub as the project progresses, subscribe to ETRs newsletter here!

Jessica M. Neupane, MPH is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator at ETR, focusing on sexual health, HIV, and youth engagement projects. She has over five years of experience facilitating sexual health education programs for young people in community-based settings. She additionally has a background in program management, human-centered design, social media strategy, and abortion rights advocacy. She can be reached at

Sign up for the ETR Health Newsletter.

Social Media :

  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram