Peer teen health symposium trains Harrisites as peer educators


Photo courtesy of the Classic Photography

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In March, a small group of Townsend Harris students attended a Peer Teen Health Symposium at Syosset High School in Long Island. The program was a joint effort of Cohen Children’s Hospital, Hope’s Door — an organization aimed to help victims of domestic abuse — and teen health experts who organized a series of workshops. 

These workshops served as a way to grow students’ leadership and self-advocacy skills regarding teenage health. Alongside Assistant Principal Ellen Fee, who was in charge of coordinating the program, Health/Physical Education teachers Matthew Lemanczyk and Gabriela Pedreros planned and executed the trip.

“The pandemic had shifted the whole process in previous years. I find that the hands-on aspect is what makes the program so captivating,” said Ms. Pedreros. “It was great to share this with the students once more.”

Sophomore Meshva Patel said that the symposium “helped [her] gain important knowledge and skills [on herself as well as others].” She added that being able to surround herself with students from different schools around the city was a “rewarding experience.”

The numerous activities and workshops were designed to teach students all around New York about abusive relationships, sexually transmitted infections, how to deal with struggles related to stress and mental health, and the basics of sexual education. 

“I never received sex-ed in my school career,” said junior Faith Park, adding that until this program, she had never understood “the actual risks that come with different STDs.” 

After the symposium, these students will become peer educators, teaching others about what they have learned. Freshman Jordan Kontente said that, as a peer educator, she “will make sure more people are aware of HIV because it is not taught as much as it should be.” She said that she will also pay “attention to any form of abuse in relationships[to] keep everyone safe and protected.” 

“Having students step up to teach the lessons coincides very well with what THHS stands for. The student body learns better when the teachers are their peers, which makes me so excited for the next phase of this mission,” said Ms. Pedreros.