Health & Education
'It's Your Game' encourages sexual responsibility
During fall and spring semesters last school year, Grand Ronde and Willamina Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders went through an evidence-based curriculum that emphasizes abstinence, but also teaches students how to protect themselves from pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV using medically accurate information.
The curriculum also taught how to develop healthy relationships and set personal limits.
The program, "It's Your Game," was developed by the University of Texas Prevention Research Center. It uses lectures and online tools to teach the subject, and conducts surveys before and after the program to evaluate results.
"The focus of the IYG program is to teach youth what healthy relationships look like, equip them with refusal skills, and provide them with information about sexually transmitted infections so they can make informed decisions," said a Tribal Youth Prevention evaluation summary of the program.
In summary, surveys found that after the program students were:
- Talking more with their parents about sexual health;
- Resisting peer pressure regarding sexual activities in greater numbers;
- Abstaining in slightly greater numbers from having sex or the intent to engage in sex;
- More resilient about making and keeping new plans;
- And more knowledgeable about sexually transmitted diseases.
Parent participation was "minimal," the summary said, with about a third of parents responding to a survey at the end of the course.
Of those parents responding, 65 percent said that the "It's Your Game" curriculum helped facilitate conversations about sexual health with their children. Sixty-one percent believed the schools were doing a good job educating students on sexual health and prevention.
Native American students, 36 percent of the total number of students participating, generally responded more responsibly after the course.
- 57 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students reported being more likely to abstain from sex in the next six months while 37 percent of others indicated they intended to abstain;
- 39 percent of AI/AN students reported their intent to use birth control, while 24 percent of others intended to;
- 71 percent of AI/AN youth reported handling stress well, compared with 44 percent of others;
- And 79 percent of AI/AN students reported being likely to get more education after high school while 64 percent of their non-Native peers indicated they were likely to.
Exit questions showed an increased willingness to resist peer pressure, to share ideas that "really matter" with parents or guardians, and to discuss sexual health questions with their parents or guardians.
All female students and 75 percent of male students were confident that they could resist pressure to have sex at the end of the program.
Thirty-six percent of participating students and 61 percent of females intended to use birth control.
In other findings, 29 percent of eighth-graders said that they had already experienced sexual intercourse, including 36 percent of male students and 21 percent of females.
Fifty-five seventh-graders and 55 eighth-graders took the survey at the beginning of the project and 67 students, all eighth-graders at that point, took the survey at the end of the project. Just less than half of the students taking the course were female.
"We love the IYG program!" said Program Lead Amber Mercier. "During the 2013-14 school year, we served 138 youth and saw great improvements when the entry and exit surveys were compared. Youth enjoyed the computer lessons and the role plays they were able to participate in. This program makes an uncomfortable topic a little easier to talk about."
Funds for the project were awarded to the Grand Ronde Tribe by the Administration of Children and Families to prevent teen pregnancy. The Tribal Personal Responsibility Education Program administered the grant.