The overall aim of emP.O.W.E.R.ed SC is to improve access to and experiences with sexual and reproductive health care services for youth of color through different innovations. We have specific curricula for different audiences.
The way men in the community showed up for the emP.O.W.E.R Kings mentorship program was amazing. This innovation was basically created by the community. At one point during the mentor training, the men being trained were asked if they had had a mentor as youth; only about four of them raised their hands. Even though they hadn’t had mentors themselves, they still wanted to do the work—which really highlighted how much they value this program.
My biggest challenge was getting to really know our audience: the youth. I went into the project with a bunch of assumptions—like that I needed social media ambassadors—but once I actually got out and got to know youth, we were able to pivot and put our efforts towards other meaningful ways to educate youth.
We collaborated with so many different mentoring agencies from grassroots organizations to health care centers to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and more. Bringing together so many organizations and industries to work towards a common goal has been really incredible. I didn’t even realize how many different organizations and people in our community are also interested in sexual health.
We conducted a number of listening sessions focused on sexual health education. That really helped us identify what our community wanted and what they were interested in seeing and doing. Being able to hear their feedback and reactions helped us adjust to create curricula that would be more interesting and engaging for our community.
This work is messy. That applies to whatever position you're in. It's full of pivots, it's full of criticism, and sometimes it's confusing. But to succeed you always want to keep your population of focus at the center of your work—and, ultimately, you see the difference you’re making and that it’s worth it.