Teen PEP PROGRAM OVERVIEW:
The New Jersey Teen Prevention Education Program (Teen PEP) is a statewide sexual health promotion and peer education initiative that enables high school students to make healthy decisions. Teen PEP is collaboration among the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the Princeton Center for Leadership Training and HiTOPS, Inc. (Health Interested Teens’ Own Program on Sexuality). Additional program sponsors include The Prudential Foundation, The Fund for New Jersey , the New Jersey Department of Human Services and The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey. The program is based on the peer-to-peer education model developed by the Princeton Center and the nationally recognized sexual health curriculum developed by HiTOPS, Inc. The collaborating partners work with interested high schools across New Jersey to institute an alternative or elective sexual health course that is consistent with the core curriculum content standards developed by the New Jersey Department of Education.
A select number of students enroll in a Teen PEP course that is team-taught by trained faculty advisors. In addition to receiving training in the sexual health content of the course, advisor teams also receive training in the use of facilitation skills to enable them to lead discussions that promote thoughtful conversation about issues and allow for self-discovery. The students participating in the course not only learn the course material, but also become a cohesive team of peer educators who are knowledgeable, effective and capable sexual health advocates and role models.
Peer educators are trained to facilitate innovative prevention education workshops that address unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), homophobia reduction, dating violence, date rape, sexual harassment and other sexual health concerns. Workshops are presented to peers, parents and educators in schools and communities and focus on building critical skills such as communication with peers and parents, problem-solving and decision-making, negotiation, refusal skills and self-management.
During the first program year, also known as the planning year, the collaborating organizations work closely with new program schools to help them build the necessary infrastructure to support and sustain program implementation for years to come. In each school, a stakeholder team coordinator is designated to work with the team of stakeholders and to oversee planning and preparation tasks. The primary tasks addressed during the planning year include: developing stakeholder teams, selecting faculty advisors to coordinate the program and team-teach the Teen PEP course, training faculty advisor teams, gaining support from school administration and the surrounding community, obtaining course curriculum approval, scheduling the Teen PEP course, and selecting peer educators.
After completion of the planning year and before the beginning of the following school year, advisor teams take selected peer educators on a three-day overnight retreat that focuses on team building. During the second program year, the implementation year, peer educators are enrolled in the Teen PEP course that meets daily throughout the school year (or the equivalent). The course is team taught by the faculty advisors who work with peer educators to conduct at least five outreach workshops to a group of approximately 25 students and host a Family Night event.
- School communities will have increased support and resources for promoting sexual health among their student populations.
- School personnel will have increased knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively teach sexual health to peer educators.
- Students will have increased knowledge and skills to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and unplanned pregnancy.
- Students will increase behaviors associated with avoiding STIs, HIV and unplanned pregnancy.
- Students will increase their use of sexual health resources in the community.
- Students will be able to identify negative messages about sex from media and other cultural influences.
- Students will have attitudes that support safer sex practices and responsible decision-making.
- Students will have formal and informal opportunities to discuss sexual health issues with adults and peers in an atmosphere of mutual respect and factual discussion.
- Students will receive positive support from peer educators for using healthy sexual practices.
- Parents who attend Teen PEP workshops will be more informed and receptive to discussions regarding sexuality with adolescents.
Each Teen PEP school has a diverse team of individuals that supports efforts to implement and institutionalize the program. Stakeholder Teams include the school principal, another administrator from the school district’s central administration office, one health educator, a pupil support personnel (e.g. guidance counselor, SAC, school psychologist), two parent representatives, one community representative, and two student representatives. Stakeholders work directly with program advisors to enhance and maintain an effective prevention education program for students. They are accessible to the Faculty Advisor Team and support the progress and improvement of the program.
Faculty Advisor Team
In each program school there is a Faculty Advisor Team of two school-based adults or one school- and one community-based adult who are respected among both students and colleagues. Some schools may choose to have a team of three advisors. At least one advisor must have prior training in the area of teen sexual health. If the course is implemented as an alternate health course, one advisor must be a NJ Certified health teacher. After completing a comprehensive training program, the Faculty Advisor Team will team teach a year long, for-credit course (or the equivalent) using the Teen PEP curriculum.
Peer Educator Team
Each school selects a diverse group of students, in the spring of their sophomore or junior year, who will enroll in the Teen PEP course during the following September. Students are enthusiastic, responsible leaders who are representative of the student body of the school. Peer educators facilitate prevention outreach workshops for their peers, parents and community, and commit to being positive role models and sexual health advocates for youth.
In each program school, peer educators conduct at least five outreach workshops to a group of approximately 25 students. Each program school can choose the cohort with whom to provide outreach workshops. The students who participate in the outreach workshops may be freshmen, sophomores, juniors and/or seniors as long as the same students participate in at least five outreach workshops throughout the course of the school year. Outreach topics for this cohort will include postponing sexual involvement, pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention and two other workshops addressing sexual health issues. In addition, peer educators host a Family Night workshop for parents/guardians and other family members, and conduct workshops in the surrounding community.