"Sex is everywhere today. Television, movies and music all use sex to impact young people," Northview High School freshman Michael King said to the crowd at The Peers Project Student Mentor Recognition Luncheon on Sunday. He's proud to be a part of the group and talk about the benefits other students receive from participating in the program. "It's a world filled with sexual messages telling young students that it is OK to have sex."
Peers Educating Peers (PEP) about Positive Values, which has more than 1,100 participants throughout Indiana, is a program which relies upon high school-age mentors to talk and share their experiences with younger students in middle school grades about the consequences of sex before marriage and the value of saving sex for marriage.
Parental involvement in a child's life is key to increasing sexual responsibility during the critical teenage years, but the serious nature of the topic makes some parents skittish, and many times they never talk with their child about abstinence or sex.
"That's where PEERS comes in," King said. "There's no teacher or adult preaching, just kids talking to kids about sex and why it's best to wait."
According to Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary, Fourth Edition, abstinence is the act of voluntarily doing without some or all food, drink or other pleasures.
But PEP is more succinct: Abstinence is the act of choosing to refrain from intimate sexual contact until marriage.
Using that definition, PEP increases student responsibility in recognizing the long-term consequences of pregnancy and the value of preserving sexual activity until marriage. This program format has proven to be most effective for younger students and females.
"We provide positive influences on the younger students in our community by teaching sexual health with abstinence being the platform to build from," Area Coordinator/Instructor Kandace Brown said of the program funded by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
The program is a part of the Clay Community School Corporation's approved curriculum, but is only available at Northview High School at this time. The program's coordinators plan to take the program to Clay City High School sometime in the future.
"This has been our most successful year for the program, with our largest group of students since it began in 2002," Brown said of the number of freshmen students coming into high school seeking out the program because of previous experience. The students are happy to sign the PEERS Abstinence contract which promises they will live the life of abstinence.
"Abstinence should be a positive thing that is celebrated. PEP and the PEERS Program allows students that freedom in a safe environmen,." Brown said.