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Teens Make Their Own Safe Sex PSAs

By Meredith Hoffman | April 26, 2012 5:31pm

MANHATTAN — As he pulled on a sweater in his room, Anthony Murray, 18, shared an epiphany about spicing up his sex life.

"I always used to use condoms every time I had sex, it just got so boring. It was all glove and no love," he said. "My friends told me about a way, though, that I can improve my sex life—It's called unprotected sex."

Murray smiled at the video camera and added, "Ever since I've been raw-doggin' it, sex has never been better."

But soon the YouTube film took a jarring turn: it listed all the "side effects" of unprotected sex, including genital warts, yellow discharge, and HIV.

Murray's parody is one of a recent batch of teen-made public service announcements that teach young people about sex and relationship issues. The non-profit Community Healthcare Network selects about 20 teens each season for the sex education initiative called Teen P.A.C.T., the program coordinator Michele Perlman said. Teen P.A.C.T. (Positive Action and Choices for Teens) has centers in Williamsburg and in Harlem, she said.

Teens from all over the city are selected by the Community Healthcare Network each year to make educational sex and relationship PSA's for their peers.
Teens from all over the city are selected by the Community Healthcare Network each year to make educational sex and relationship PSA's for their peers.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

The high schoolers, from all over the city, collaboratively write and direct films addressing the themes of their choice. The youths go through an intensive summer training and during the school year make two rounds of PSAs as well as visiting schools and non-profits to educate their peers about contraception and other relevant topics.  

The PSAs, which the program started making two years ago, have already drawn 260,000 views on Vimeo and on YouTube, said Perlman.

"I think it does work and that teens are more likely to listen to what other teens have to say," said Yara Talin, 16, an 11th grader at A. Philip Randolph High School in Harlem who wrote her film about abusive relationships.

"They all thought it was funny and it was cool," said Murray, a senior at University Heights High School in the Bronx, who said he shared his video on condom use with all his friends. "People, when they watch PSAs, can often feel like they're too preachy, like they can't relate . . . so we wanted to do something different, rather than like 'use a condom, use a condom right now.'"

The peer leaders said the program helped them become experts both in sexual health and in collaborative work.

"I learned more about abusive relationships and all the little signs that make one," said Courtney Smith, 15, who worked with Talin on a script.

And Chelsea Hawkins, 17, whose film delineates the steps required to visit a clinic for reproductive services, said the process of making the film empowered the group to share their voices about a crucial experience.

"Since we wrote the script it felt good to give our input," said Hawkins. "Many teens don't feel comfortable going into a clinic."

The group's most recent round of PSAs, which they shot one weekend in April, will be released by the end of the schoolyear, said Perlman.

"It's an incredible experience to watch the youth putting their experience into action," she said of the weekend shoot. "Their excitement and confidence in their abilities is palpable."

Teen P.A.C.T. is accepting applicants through May 18 for the upcoming year's group of peer leaders. Youths aged 14 and older can fill out the application.