Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
Talking About Sex Openly and Loudly
SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) strives to create an environment in which students at the MET school in Providence can engage in open and honest discussion about sexuality and sexual health. This year’s Community Fellows for the program are Marlees West ‘15 and Emily Westgate ‘16. Marlees is a Senior concentrating in Psychology with a focus in education. Marlees has coordinated the Peer Education Program for the past two years and taught in the classroom the year before. Emily is a Junior studying Public Health and currently coordinates SHAPE 1 & 2; she also taught in the classroom for a year.
Talking about sex is often done in hushed tones, in small spaces. Parents answer their children's questions about where babies come from, friends whisper experiences and questions to each other, and teachers wait for the school nurse to deliver traditional Sex Ed.
In SHAPE, though, we talk about sex openly and loudly. SHAPE 1 & 2 happen in Met (The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence) classrooms, where we reach as many high school students as possible with our 8 week long curriculum. The Peer Education Program runs on a yearlong model - the first half of the year we train and educate a select group of Met students so that in the Spring they can step into the classroom as peer educators and facilitate the SHAPE 1 curriculum.
This year has been a year of growth for all of SHAPE’s programs.
Between SHAPE 1 & 2 there are 16 Brown volunteers who facilitate lively and open discussions in Met advisories each week. With 6 returning and 10 new facilitators this year, there has been a lot of room for seasoned volunteers to share their experiences and for new facilitators to share their ideas for the program. The facilitators themselves bring a new sense of diversity to the program; this year we have volunteers from the United States, the U.K, and Canada who range from sophomores to seniors, guys to gals, each of whom bring their own experiences with sexual health education.
Each individual facilitator has their own passion that fuels their involvement in SHAPE, and it is the differences among these passions that make our weekly meetings exciting and engaging. For some, talking honestly and casually about sex within their assigned Met advisory is the first time they have been able to do so in an educational setting. Other Brown volunteers had unconventional Sex Ed in high school and their motivation is to ensure that other students have the important discussions that are often hushed away in school settings. Each week, we see the confidence in our facilitators grow as they share the highlights - and challenges - of their weekly lesson. We know, from listening to our volunteers, that the Met students are talking candidly about sex and learning the tools they need to be empowered to make informed decisions about their sexual health.
Peer Education, which serves as an internship for Met students, expanded this year as well. Last year - with only 3 Brown volunteers and 2 Met peer educators - we were able to lead deep reflections with the class of students. This year the Peer Ed program is much bigger; we have 7 Met students and 4 Brown volunteers. While we were happy the program had grown, we were initially concerned that we would lose the intimacy we had last year with such a small group.
Yet we were all pleasantly surprised. With our larger group, we've gained so much diversity. This semester has been an important reminder of how critical different voices are in every conversation. We talk about sex loudly. Openly. And from many different perspectives. While sometimes this makes it harder to maintain a safe space, it also makes the conversation much richer. This week alone Peer Ed had a discussion about the legality of gay marriage across the nation and a conversation that pushed all of us to think more critically about gender roles than ever have before.
Talking about sex, sexual health, and sexuality honestly and without judgment is important for all. We are so glad that SHAPE, through our Brown facilitators, can provide Met students and the Peer Educators the opportunity to talk about sex, openly and loudly in safe spaces.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016