Teaching Sexual Health with Y.O.U.

Name: Marisa

Year: Senior

Major: Gender & Sexuality Studies

Minor: Global Health Studies, Spanish

CFS Program: Field Studies in Public Health

Employer: Youth and Opportunity United

My internship at Youth and Opportunity United (Y.O.U.) has offered me such an incredible opportunity to learn more about the field I hope to dedicate my life to. Youth and Opportunity United is an organization in Evanston that provides after-school enrichment programming to youth, completely free of charge, so that students can have a place to do their homework, build relationships with supportive adults, and attend enriching programs on topics like nutrition, exercise, cooking, poetry, and even healthy masculinity.

As the Sexuality Education Intern for this school year, I will be working with the Manager of Sexuality Education to develop programming that incorporates sexual health education topics like healthy relationships, consent, and LGBTQ+ Inclusivity into existing programming, and offer enrichment group options to students who might be interested in learning more about these topics. As a Gender & Sexuality Studies major with a minor in Global Health who hopes to go into Public Health, I have a particular interest in the field of health education, and specifically, sexual health education. While my undergraduate coursework has allowed me to study these issues from an academic perspective on a regular basis, it has always been a challenge to translate academic work into the career goals I’ve established.

But it is because of my internship at Y.O.U., thanks to CFS, that I will be ending my time at Northwestern incredibly confident in my dream of a career doing direct-service work in the non-profit sector. The most important thing I have taken away from my first few weeks working with Y.O.U. is how incredibly important it is that students have access to a support system of caring adults that goes beyond academic support. Beyond their after-school programming, Y.O.U. also offers an office full of social workers that students and families can access free of charge, and social workers also attend programming at schools and build relationships with students on a regular basis, not just when students have a particular need. The socio-emotional support network offered by this program is vital to helping young students to become the healthiest version of themselves to position them to be successful in school and far beyond.

The most important lesson I have learned in college, and what has inspired my interest in public health above all else, is the idea that health is so much more than healthcare, and I have seen through both my coursework and my work with Y.O.U. that providing support to young people is the first step in creating a healthier generation for the future. I cannot wait to learn more from Y.O.U. and from CFS in Public Health about how I will be able to contribute this same mission in new ways in the future.