My name is Mackenzie. I am 20 years old, and I’m from Texas — a state which has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.
Growing up, I heard many of my friends talking about sex and getting things horribly wrong. In middle school, I was told by a teacher that we wouldn’t be discussing condoms in health class, and I have been an advocate for comprehensive sex education ever since.
In a country where 95% of people have sex before marriage, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are not only unrealistic, they are dangerous. We need to provide information and options for young people so that they can act responsibly and protect themselves.
For the past four years, I have received training and support from Advocates for Youth and its partner, the Texas Freedom Network. Putting these skills to use, I was recently elected Secretary of the Austin Independent School District School Health Advisory Council, which makes recommendations to the local school board about health policy and curricula.
We successfully prevented an abstinence-only-until-marriage program from being implemented in Austin, and now thousands of students will receive medically accurate sex education to help them make healthy and responsible decisions. Young people are capable of making responsible decisions about our health and lives — but politicians, teachers, and adults in our communities need to live up to their responsibility to give us all the information we need to do so.
I also recently helped organize the first-ever youth lobby day for sex education in Texas where we trained 75 other young activists how to talk to our representatives about sex education reform. It’s time for elected officials to start making responsible decisions about the policies that affect young people’s lives — and it’s up to all of us to pressure them into doing the right thing.
If it weren’t for Advocates for Youth, I would not have been able to do any of this.
Advocates provided me with the training, skills, and resources I needed to accomplish my goals.
No matter how much you give, you can know that you’ll be making a difference in the lives of thousands of young people like me.
Thank you for listening to my story and the stories of those who came before me. Your support is much appreciated.
Best wishes in 2012!