Redefining Sex Education In The 21st Century

In 2012, Elizabeth Chen and Vichi Jagannathan, recent college graduates, found themselves teaching in adjacent classrooms of a rural North Carolina high school as part of the Teach For America program. There, they saw students struggling to cope with unplanned pregnancies.

Four years later, Chen and Cristina Leos, Gillings School of Global Public Health doctoral students, and Jagannathan, a Yale graduate student, set the ambitious goal to talk to more than 150 middle-school students about sexuality, self-image, changing bodies and relationships with peers. You know – the easy stuff.

“We had no idea if the students would talk to us,” says Chen. “We were strangers, after all. But they were completely willing to be open with us about everything.”

But students did talk to them, and what they learned laid the groundwork for “Real Talk,” a sex-ed app that teaches kids about sexuality through storytelling and holds the promise of helping to redefine sex education for the 21st century.

Read the complete Carolina Story from the Gillings School of Global Public Health…

As a finalist in the Innovation Next competition, they received $80,000 in development. In August 2016, “Real Talk” received an additional $325,000 award from Innovation Next to make the app a reality. Chen, Leos and Jagannathan were the only student group that won, and their award is the largest award ever made to a student or student group at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as of 2017.

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