In November 2013, the Check Yo’ Self Crew attended the fourth annual International Conference on HIV/AIDS Stigma, in Washington, D.C. This was the first trip to Washington, D.C. for the Check Yo’ Self Crew, a group of young people who work as peer educators to prevent HIV/AIDS/STI’s and teenage pregnancy prevention.
“To be able to take the Check Yo’ Self Crew to Washington, D.C. to represent at an international conference, while touring the White House, and visiting the [U.S.] Capitol was amazing,” said Charlnitta ‘Mama Chi’ Ellis, founder and director of the Check Yo’ Self Health and Wellness Center at High School for Recording Arts. “Our young people completely stood out at the conference, leading the way in showing people around the country what young educators can do in the HIV/AIDS prevention movement.”
U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, (D), Fifth District, Minnesota, provided Check Yo’ Self Crew members with passes to visit the White House and the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers in the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Ellison was also inducted as an Honorary Check Yo’ Self Crew member.
While at the International Conference on HIV/AIDS Stigma, Check Yo’ Self Crew members heard the story of Ryan White, an American teenager who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. White's mother, Jeannie White Ginder, told the story of her son being expelled from middle school after finding out that he was infected with HIV. According to Crew Member, Daysha Patterson, the story that White's mother shared at the conference was very moving.
"It was a very touching story," said Patterson. "Ryan's mom talked about how other people didn't want him in school after they found out he was infected, so he went to a new school and didn't let anything or anyone stop him. It was inspiring yet difficult to hear.”
In addition to attending the conference, the CYC visited the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial.
For over 20 years, the HAS program has guided a youth-led STI prevention and awareness peer education program in the Twin Cities. The focus is creating community norms for self-respect and understanding, and for the need to protect one another from STI’s. Using evidence-based curriculum, the HAS instructors teach during health and science classes in participating high schools. The HAS program is now based at High School for Recording Arts.
If you would like more information on the HAS Program, please visit www.checkyoself.net or call (651) 294-3023.