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The Answer Blog

Archive for April, 2014

YTH Youth Advisor Interviews Alex Medina of Answer

April 30, 2014

This blog post was originally published by YTH and is written Anthony Sis.

If there is one person in the world who is the most passionate about working with youth, it is Alex Medina. Alex is currently the Coordinator of Web Content and Social Networking at Answer. Answer is an award-winning, national organization that provides invaluable sexuality education resources to millions of young people and adults every year based at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Alex Medina

Alex Medina (right) with YTH Youth Advisors Anthony Sis and Ebony Section

At YTH Live 2014 I had the opportunity to meet Alex in person at the youth networking session hosted by the YTH Youth Advisory Board. I had the pleasure of asking Alex some questions about his work at Answer, his experience at YTH Live, and how he began working with youth and technology. Here is what Alex had to say:

1) Alex, I have seen you attend YTH Live over the past couple of years. What inspires you to come back?

YTH Live is a fantastic conference for people like me who are passionate about youth, tech and health. Tech changes quickly, and young people drive much of that change. So it’s important to adapt health outreach efforts and meet young people where they’re at online.

I’ve learned so much from the successes and challenges of others in the field. And I get to share get to share the groundbreaking work I do at Answer. We’re always working on something new in tech and sexual health!

2) At Answer you serve as the Coordinator of Web Content and Social Networking. What kind of tasks do you work on?

I get to work on all things tech, including social media strategy, web content development and managing digital projects, like redesigning a website or developing a game. I also get to train professionals on how social media or smartphones can be used to engage teens. I’m always thinking about how technology can improve sex education.

3) You were a part of the Sex, Etc. relaunch back in 2012. How has the website content changed since its relaunch?

The LOL section of Sexetc.org features humorous sexual health content, especially memes, GIFs and photos. It’s the lighter side of sex ed. We also publish content regularly on Sexetc.org—the Sex, Etc. teen staff are always writing new stories and blog posts.

4) At YTH Live 2014 you spoke at the “Gaming for Health” session about games designed for sexual health education. How did your interests in gaming and sexual health come together for you?

I grew up playing video games and have always wanted to make a game. In college I thought I’d become a video game designer. But I went on a very different path after discovering sexuality and gender studies. During my senior year at Rutgers I started volunteering at Answer, and the rest is history.

In 2013 Answer competed in the first annual Games for Change Game Design Competition, and we won a chance to work with indie game developers on creating a sexual health game. It was incredible to have two very different passions of mine come together so unexpectedly. Can you say destiny?

5) Could you speak about some current or upcoming projects that you’re working on?

I just finished work on a prototype of Safer Sex Shuffle, a game that teaches players how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs through the use of latex barriers such as condoms and dental dams. Players score points by linking body part and latex barrier tiles to make ‘chains’ of safer sex behaviors. It’s like Boggle or Spelltower, but with funny anthropomorphic vulva and condom artwork.

I’m so excited for what’s next for Safer Sex Shuffle. We’d like to make the game available as an app for smartphones and tablets, as well as on Sexetc.org. My goal is to make Safer Sex Shuffle a game that teens want to play again and again, both in class and at home.

6) Where do you see the landscape of youth innovation, health, and technology heading towards in the future?

The future is now! Teens and tech are already reshaping expectations for how sex education and sexual health services should be delivered. And smartwatches and wearable tech like Google Glass will be an exciting area of innovation. It’s up to us—professionals who work with youth—to adapt and meet our audience wherever they go!

7) What types of activities do you recommend youth engage in who wish to pursue a similar path as the one you’ve taken?

Google everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Read a lot. Unplug from technology once in a while. And eat your Wheaties every morning.

8) I have to ask, what is your favorite thing about YTH Live?

The youth! The tech! The weather!

I really did leave my heart in San Francisco, and I hope to make more memories at YTH Live next year.

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Thank you for being an inspirational youth and sexual health advocate. Keep up the great work, Alex!

For more information about YTH Live, visit http://yth.org/ythlive.

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Anthony Sis (@a_sis62) is a founding member of YTH’s Youth Advisory Board.

He’s a senior at Connecticut College studying government and gender, as well as women’s studies, with a certificate in public policy and community action. He’s a spoken word poet, dancer, writer, and avid blogger. +Learn more about Anthony

Where Are They Now? Sex, Etc. Writer Derek Demeri

April 17, 2014

Since 1994, hundreds of teen writers have written for Answer’s award-winning, teen-written sexual health magazine and website, Sex, Etc. Our writers do the important work of crafting the stories—in print and online—that educate their peers about sexual health. At Answer we believe strongly that we should involve young people in sexuality education. Their voices resonate powerfully with their peers, and we are proud to promote teen perspectives on sexual health and sexuality education. But what happens when these writers are no longer teens? What happens when they are 20-and 30-somethings out in the world?

In honor of Sex, Etc.’s 20th anniversary, we decided to catch up with some former teen staff members who have gone on to do great work in reproductive health, public health and journalism, because we have been wondering: Where are they now?

Derek Demeri, Teen Staff Writer, 2010-2011

We didn’t have to look far for Derek, who is a junior at our very own Rutgers University. He is majoring in political science, minoring in history & African studies, and getting certificates in global politics and French. He also works as the Sexual & Gender Minorities Project Leader and Associate for the Center for the Study of Genocide & Human Rights (CGHR) at Rutgers.  Here’s what Derek has to say when I reached out to him via e-mail.

Lucinda Holt: How did you learn about Sex, Etc.?

Derek Demeri: In high school, I founded and acted as the president of my school’s gay-straight alliance and occasionally ran public awareness campaigns to help the student body understand queer and trans* issues. My English teacher at the time recommended that I apply to Sex, Etc., as it was an organization she admired and thought I would fit in well with, given my interest in sexuality education.

LH: How has Sex, Etc. shaped the work you do today?

DD: The training I received at Sex, Etc. while I was a staff member really helped me conceptualize sexual health issues. I think it was one of the first times that I learned how interconnected rights can be. You can’t teach about the diversity of gender identity or sexual orientation without proper sexual health classes being taught in high schools, nor can you expect access to condoms for the queer community without access to all forms of prophylactic. While I entered Sex, Etc. as a gay rights advocate, I left beginning my journey as a sexual rights advocate.

LH: What’s the most pressing sexual health issue teens face today?

DD: I believe repression of sexuality is the biggest challenge teens (and our general society) face today. Adults and even teens themselves continue to perpetuate extremely limited ideas of sexuality that don’t allow teens to explore and educate themselves about sexuality in a healthy manner and results in a myriad of problems. This repression can mean safer-sex methods that can help prevent pregnancies and STIs are not being used. It can mean same-sex desires are repressed, which sometimes results in violent reactions against those who live openly. It can mean dangerous and life-threatening self-performed surgeries by teens trying to have an abortion or by trans* individuals attempting to transition genders without proper medical care.

LH: What did you enjoy most about writing for Sex, Etc.?

DD: I loved being surrounded by a group of people that were dedicated to advancing sexual health education, but with each person coming from a different background and perspective on the topic. Everyone had a different reason for being passionate about sexual health, which really helped me broaden my own perspectives and understandings of sexuality.

LH: Who inspires you?

DD: My mom continues to be my biggest source of inspiration. She passed away about a year ago due to complications from her cancer treatment. In her 5-plus years of battling cancer, I have never seen someone stay so strong and determined to come out on top. From doctors telling her to give up hope to her own health dragging her down, she always picked herself up to fulfill her commitments as a single mother. No historical figure or celebrity will ever compare to the strength and will power that I saw every day in my household growing up.

* “Trans*” with an asterisk is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities, such as transmen, transwomen, transsexual, that might fall on the transgender spectrum.