Oak Park teen helps launch 'Birth Control Squad' campaign

Youth-led effort aims to educate peers on sexual health

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

In the era of social media, teenagers are more connected to their friends than ever, but in this modern era of communication birth control remains a taboo topic that many find difficult to discuss.

For Oak Park and River Forest High School Junior Nellie Kamenitsa-Hale, 16, misinformation about the topic is widespread amongst her peers. The negative stigma of discussing birth control leads to bad outcomes for a lot of kids, she said in a recent telephone interview.

That's why Kamenitsa-Hale and her colleagues who serve on Planned Parenthood Illinois' Youth Advisory Board are working directly with kids their own age to educate them about the topic.

Kamenitsa-Hale joined the Youth Advisory Board, which has about 10 members from the Chicago area, about a year ago and began working with other teenagers to develop youth-led strategies for reaching out to their classmates about birth control and sexual health.

"It's a really important thing for us to show people that they're not alone in their experience," she told Wednesday Journal. "You can be different from other people, but you're not alone."

The Youth Advisory Board most recently launched the "My Body, My Story" initiative, aimed at 13 to 19 year olds, that encourages young people to share their stories and get accurate information about various birth control methods.

Kamenitsa-Hale said her group is holding workshops at community organizations and schools to spread the word. In that process, she's heard a lot of falsehoods about sexual health.

Among the most common: birth control pills make you fat. IUDs (intrauterine devices) are painful to use and can cause infertility.

"For a lot of teenage girls it has to do with weight gain, which is not completely true," she said.

Teenagers often get bad information from the internet and television and then feel uncomfortable asking their peers questions, she said.

She noted that her group is not encouraging young people to have sex but wants them to be prepared if they do.

The Youth Advisory Board also has created a collection of seven cartoon characters known as "The Birth Control Squad," each representing a different form of contraception.

"They all have little eyes and they're adorable," she said. "It's a way for us to make our campaign really approachable and easy to use and easy to see."

Lightening the topic shows teenagers "it's not scary to talk about this stuff," Kamenitsa-Hale said.

The Youth Advisory Board also is connecting with peers through social media campaigns, according to Paula Thornton Greear, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Illinois.

"I think it's about not just talking to or at young people; it's really involving them," Thornton Greear said. "It's not simply sharing the information but empowering them to digest it …"

More information about the "My Body, My Story" campaign is available online.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 16th, 2018 7:45 PM

For those who think abstinence is the way to prevent pregnancy for sexually active partners - just wondering if they would suggest it as the best option for married partners as well as unmarried partners?

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 16th, 2018 10:29 AM

Adoption requires one to go through with pregnancy, which is not easy for a young teenage girl. Plus there are substantial medical expenses, which, if the girl happens to have no insurance, will be paid by the taxpayers. And if she chooses to keep the baby, her entire life will be uprooted. Is it really worth it when the prevention is so easy and readily available?

Yalila Herrera  

Posted: April 15th, 2018 8:34 PM

There's always counciling and the choice of adoption of innocent unborn babies that don't have a choice.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 15th, 2018 2:45 PM

Finally, somebody is shifting focus from abortion to prevention. In the 21st century, it's about time. And to the ladies below, sorry, but abstinence is just not going to happen. So the realistic choices here are either abortions and dead newborns in the trash, or the pills and IUDs.

Yalila Herrera from Chicago  

Posted: April 15th, 2018 2:06 PM

Lets look at a few facts of what birth control has already done and accomplished that is not publicized by Planned Parenthood. 1. Why doesn't Planned Parenthood publicly acknowledge and inform people that certain birth control are considered a category 1 carcinogen right up there with smoking. 2. There is scientific links connecting birth control with breast cancer as well as ovarian. Planned Parenthood's "birth" stems from Margaret Sanger's desire to control population, particularly, minorities. When our country already Funds over half a billion dollars for such a cause, why do we still need a 16 year old advocating. Have we as parents allowed our government and our own kids to tell us what's good for them? Have we forgotten our role as children of God. Out of all our bodily organs and their respective functions, our reproductive, both male and female, are the only ones criminally attacked for the sake of.....pleasure, gratification, selfishness, and rarely because of health reasons. We've become a society that doesn't want to deal with its consequences in regards to honoring our life giving gift and part co-creators. It's iby enabling each other through ours strengths and not our fears, such as in an unwanted pregnancy, that we as a community move forward with better results and less regrets. Why doesn't Planned Parenthood instead promote abstinence. My guess, there's no money to be made for them.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 15th, 2018 9:15 AM

Ramona, who is "removing parents from the equation" and exactly how is this being done? Why can't you see this as just an additional resource ? Does allowing a young person to have a library card "remove" the parents from the equation? After all, it's another means for a child to access information outside of the direct control of their parents.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 15th, 2018 12:07 AM

Is this just another way to absolutely remove parents from the equation? I find this utterly sickening. Why isn't abstinence promoted? Why the #$%@@ is birth control being "aimed at" 13 year olds? Why is a 16 year old on an advisory board.? Why are cartoons being used? Are 13 to 19 year olds the real targeted audience or is it 6 to 12 year olds? My Body, My Story" .......I wonder how they would feel if I refuse to take a vaccine because it's "my body".

Pam Niesluchowski from Oak Park  

Posted: April 13th, 2018 5:14 PM

I am very glad to see these teens informing their peers about factual, scientific information about their bodies, all of which will support their making responsible decisions about their behavior and their bodies. We cannot put our heads into sand and think that teens, even 13 years olds, are not tuning into the feelings in their changing bodies and the messages they are sent by society about sexuality.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: April 13th, 2018 4:02 PM

Just a thought, but maybe this organization could start by pointing out to kids that just maybe 13 years old is too young to be having sex in the first place? No? Too hard to have that kind of conversation with them, so just skip to enabling use of contraception? Got it.

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