Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 3:08 PM on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

PHAT: All about teens teaching teens


Youth education on reproductive health is often a minefield for arguments originating from contradicting moral values and expectations. Luckily Homer has recently introduced a new program, Promoting Health Among Teens Comprehensive Abstinence and Safer Sex Intervention, otherwise known as PHAT, that takes an all encompassing approach to teen sex education.

PHAT is a team of hired adults and teens working to empower youth to maintain healthy relationships, make informed decisions for which they can feel proud, and decrease teen sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.

The program was started from a grant that Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic received last fall from the state of Alaska's Section of Women's Children's and Family Health.

PHAT is looking to revolutionize sex education through peer-to-peer teaching techniques. Trevor Waldorf, Kate Kerns, Zoe Story and Dylan Wylde are the four newly hired teenage educators selected out of 16 applicants. Peer Coordinator Doug Koester hopes the PHAT system can prove successful enough to motivate the whole state and country to adopt the methods.

"The interesting thing, the hard thing, and also the great thing is that it is an experiment," he said.

Koester described the success of the pilot project in Port Graham where the peer educators and coordinators recently taught.

"We got very good feedback from the students in Port Graham. They really enjoyed the peer educators," he said. "It's the peer educators that make it happen."

The peer educators seem equally excited about the opportunity to teach through the program.

Kerns, a graduated high school senior said, "I decided to get involved in PHAT because I am really passionate about peer- to-peer education. When I heard about it I thought it was the coolest idea ever."

"I think (peer teaching) adds legitimacy," said Waldorf, a high school junior. "Students are much more prone to accept the information and it makes it easier to understand."

On April 30 the peer educators team started a three-week long teaching segment at Flex High School. The state-chosen curriculum used by PHAT is approximately 12 hours long and includes a combination of abstinence instruction, sexual health facts and information, and various interactive activities that teach productive communication and refusal techniques.

Food and up to $30 worth of prizes are given to participants who complete the curriculum.

Teens interested in the peer educator position are encouraged to apply. Koester explained that while there are presently no job openings, applications will be saved for future use and will be considered when there is availability.

The PHAT team is currently exploring summer teaching opportunities. Coordinators are planning a July class at the Youth Resource and Enrichment Co-op, known as the REC Room, located in the lower level of the KBFPC outreach building on Nielsen Circle.

The REC Room works to facilitate healthy relationships, health education and healthy choices for youth in Homer. The comfortably furnished space is a safe and fun environment for teens to hang out with friends.

Free snacks are available, along with Internet, computers, video games on a big screen, guitars, and arts and crafts. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Youth or parents interested in PHAT can email phateducators@gmail.com or call the REC Room number at 235- 6736.

Shannon Reid is a high school senior who will graduate from the Connections Homeschool Program this month.