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The New Jersey Teen Prevention Education Program (Teen PEP) is a statewide sexual health promotion and peer education initiative that enables high school students to make healthy decisions. Teen PEP is collaboration among the New Jersey Department of Health, the Princeton Center for Leadership Training and HiTOPS, Inc. (Health Interested Teens’ Own Program on Sexuality). Additional sponsors include the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and the Horizon Foundation of New Jersey. Teen PEP is based on the peer-to-peer education model developed by the Princeton Center and the nationally recognized sexual health curriculum developed by HiTOPS, Inc. The collaborating partners work with interested high schools across New Jersey to institute the Teen PEP sexual health course that is consistent with the core curriculum content standards developed by the New Jersey Department of Education. The Teen PEP sexual health class is an elective or alternative health class that carefully selected high school juniors or seniors chose to enroll with parental approval.
The students who enroll in the Teen PEP course become a cohesive team of trained peer educators who are knowledgeable, effective and capable sexual health advocates and role models. They attend the Teen PEP class daily (or the equivalent) where they receive the information about sexual health and the skills needed to facilitate innovative prevention outreach workshops on a variety of sexual health issues, including: unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), homophobia reduction, dating violence, date rape, sexual harassment and related issues.
Once peer educators master the information and skills needed to educate others, they conduct structured and scripted outreach workshops, under the supervision of their faculty advisors. The workshops that Teen PEP peer educators facilitate are presented to freshmen and/or sophomore students, to parents, and to appropriate audiences identified by each school’s Teen PEP stakeholder team. These workshops focus on not only on sexual health information, but equally important, on enhancing the critical skills needed to promote teen sexual health, i.e., communication (with partners and parents), problem-solving, decision-making, negotiation, refusal skills and self-management skills. The students participating in Teen PEP sexual health outreach workshops are required to obtain parental consent prior to attending the workshops.
The faculty who team-teach the Teen PEP course receive special training in the sexual health and coordination of activity-based learning. A minimum of two faculty at each Teen PEP school attend two three-day residential training sessions in their first year and two one-day advanced training workshop annually. Faculty advisor training is key to equip advisors with the skills needed to manage a successful Teen PEP program.
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The Teen PEP program model
Schools joining the Teen PEP network make a minimum commitment of two years. During the first program year, also known as the planning year, the collaborating organizations (Princeton Center for Leadership Training and HiTOPS, Inc.) work closely with new schools to help them build the necessary infrastructure to support and sustain program implementation for years to come. Each new Teen PEP school assembles a stakeholder team to oversee the Teen PEP planning and implementation process. The primary tasks addressed during the planning year include: developing stakeholder teams, selecting faculty advisors to coordinate the program and team-teach the Teen PEP course, training faculty advisor teams, gaining support from school administration and the surrounding community, obtaining course curriculum approval, scheduling the Teen PEP course, and selecting peer educators.
Just prior to the second program year, the newly-selected Teen PEP peer educators and their Faculty advisors take part in a three-day retreat that marks the beginning of the Teen PEP school year. During this retreat peer educators and advisors participate in activities that are designed to assist them in developing a cohesive, working team that they need to become prior to embarking on the learning experiences that are part of the Teen PEP curriculum.
The second program year is marked by the onset of the Teen PEP sexual health class that meets daily throughout the school year. Peer educators are enrolled in the Teen PEP course which is team-taught by faculty advisors. Peer educators are trained to conduct at least five outreach workshops annually, and one Family Night sexual health education session for parents.
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Teen PEP goals
- To provide school communities with increased support and resources for promoting sexual health among their student populations;
- To equip school personnel with the knowledge and skills to effectively teach sexual health to peer educators;
- To create an atmosphere of positive peer pressure where responsible sexual decisions are valued;
- To provide students with formal and informal opportunities to discuss sexual health issues with adults and peers in an atmosphere of mutual respect and factual discussion;
- To ensure that students have the knowledge and skills to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and unintended pregnancy;
- To support students in the development and maintenance of attitudes that support safer sex practices and responsible decision-making;
- To motivate students to engage in behaviors associated with avoiding STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancy;
- Students will increase their use of sexual health resources in the community;
- To provide parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to communicate with their children about sex and sexuality.
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Each Teen PEP school has a diverse team of individuals that supports efforts to implement and institutionalize the program. Stakeholder Teams include the school principal, another administrator from the school district’s central administration office, one health educator, a pupil support personnel (e.g. guidance counselor, SAC, school psychologist), two parent representatives, one community representative, and two student representatives. Stakeholders work directly with the Teen PEP Faculty Advisor Team (Teen PEP teachers) to enhance an effective prevention education program for students.
Faculty Advisor Team
In each program school a Faculty Advisor Team of two or three teachers or other qualified school personnel manages the day-to-day operation of the Teen PEP sexual health class. At least one advisor must have prior training in the area of teen sexual health. Should the Teen PEP course be offered as an alternate health course, one advisor must be a New Jersey certified health teacher. Faculty advisors complete a comprehensive training program prior to assignment to teaching the Teen PEP sexual health class; and utilize only materials, curricula and workshops that are part of the Teen PEP curriculum.
Peer Educator Team
Each school selects a diverse group of students, in the spring of their sophomore or junior year. These students will enroll in the Teen PEP course during the following September. Students are enthusiastic, responsible leaders who are representative of the student body of the school. Peer educators facilitate prevention outreach workshops for their peers, parents and community, and commit to being positive role models and sexual health advocates for youth.
At each Teen PEP school, peer educators conduct a series of at least five outreach workshops annually. These five workshops can be presented to any group of teens that the Teen PEP stakeholders and school administrators view as appropriate. However, one group of approximately 25 students at each school is selected to participate in all five of the outreach workshops. The students who participate in these workshops may be freshmen and/or sophomores. Outreach topics for this cohort will include postponing sexual involvement, pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention and two other workshops addressing sexual health issues. In addition, peer educators host a Family Night workshop for parents/guardians and other family members, and conduct workshops in the surrounding community.
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Currently, there are over 50 public high schools and two youth-serving organizations representing 15 New Jersey counties that are active members of the Teen PEP network.
Teen PEP Schools by New Jersey County
Pleasantville High School
Fort Lee High School
River Dell Regional High School (Oradell)
Tenafly High School
Bordentown Regional High School
Burlington Township High School
Northern Burlington County Regional
High School (Columbus)
Pemberton Township High School
Dr. Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High School (Camden)
Creative Arts High School (Camden)
Haddon Heights Jr.-Sr. High School
Highland Regional High School (Blackwood)
LEAP Academy University Charter High School (Camden)
Timber Creek High School (Erial)
Woodrow Wilson High School (Camden)
Barringer High School (Newark)
Central High School (Newark)
El Club del Barrio (Newark)
Malcolm X Shabazz High School (Newark)
Technology High School (Newark)
Weequahic High School (Newark)
Clearview Regional High School
Glassboro High School
Woodbury Jr.-Sr. High School
Harrison High School
Kearny High School
Union Hill High School
Weehawken High School
Central Regional High School (Flemington)
North Hunterdon Regional
South Hunterdon Regional High School (Lambertville)
HiTOPS Teen Council
Lawrence High School
Princeton High School
Trenton Central High School-West
Carteret High School
Highland Park High School
Middlesex High School
Monroe Township High School
North Brunswick High School
South Brunswick High School
Long Branch High School
John F. Kennedy High School
Passaic County Manchester
Regional High School (Haledon)
Passaic County Technical Institute
Passaic High School
Franklin High School (Somerset)
Vernon Township High School
Abraham Clark High School
Union High School
Number of Program Schools in Each New Jersey County
- Comprehensive training and planning
All schools receive extensive training and support to develop the infrastructure necessary to institutionalize a long-term systemic model of health education and prevention for students.
- A one-day training institute for a stakeholder team of administrators, teachers and other key personnel to assist the school in launching and sustaining Teen PEP;
- Three days of residential training in the winter and three days of residential training in the summer for faculty advisors to prepare them to successfully implement the program;
- Two days of follow-up training for faculty advisors during program implementation to broaden their knowledge and troubleshoot;
- On-site technical assistance to address individual school needs and concerns;
- Participation in a statewide sexual health conference, the Day of Learning for New Jersey Youth, featuring peer-led sexual health educational presentations.
- Curriculum materials
- Faculty Advisor Handbooks containing a comprehensive sexual health curriculum for the Teen PEP course consistent with NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards;
- Outreach Workshop Guidebooks containing workshop modules that enable peer educators to lead innovative, effective, sexual health outreach workshops for peers, parents and educators in the school and community.
- Ongoing support and assessment
- Ongoing, on-site technical assistance and consultation;
- Comprehensive program evaluation.
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What people are saying about Teen PEP
- “It has brought me to a new level of self worth and confidence. I’m not only helping people I don’t even know, but I’m helping myself in every other relationship I will ever have.” -Peer Educator
- “The information that we obtain in class can help save someone’s life. Knowing that sharing a small fact with someone else could save their life in the long run makes me extremely proud that I am in an amazing program such as Teen PEP.”-Peer Educator
- “The benefits of being a Teen PEP educator are endless, and I will continue to recognize them as I grow as a leader later in my life.” -Peer Educator
- “[Teen PEP] has changed what we used to call sex education and it has thoroughly changed the way we deal with diversity and the definitions of diversity. When we talk about what children understand and what they are able to do, Teen PEP has elongated our definitions and expanded our thought processes.” -Assistant Superintendent, South Brunswick Public Schools
- “[Teen PEP has] changed the building from just a place where academics takes place to a place where emotional intelligence is valued.” -Principal, River Dell Regional High School
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Teen PEP program evaluation results
In collaboration with Rutgers University, Teen PEP was systematically evaluated from 2000-2003 and has solid data to demonstrate its effectiveness in impacting the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of students. Students who participated in Teen PEP as peer educators and as participants in 5 outreach workshops completed a pre-survey of their knowledge attitudes and behaviors prior to Teen PEP activities and subsequently completed a post-test of the same measures after completing Teen PEP activities. Both peer educators and workshop participants were compared to a similar group of students who completed the same assessments.
Impact on peer educators
After participating in Teen PEP, peer educators, as compared to students who did not participate in the program are more likely to:
- Communicate about sexual health issues with parents, friends and partners;
- Wait longer to have sex;
- Stop having sex;
- Reduce the number of sex partners;
- Access reproductive health care services more often;
- Use birth control and condoms more often;
Impact on workshop participants
After participating in Teen PEP, workshop participants, as compared to students who did not participate in the program are more likely to:
- Communicate about sexual health issues with partners;
- Wait longer to have sex;
- Stop having sex;
- Have sex less often;
- Abstain from sex while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs;
- Use birth control more often;
In addition, Teen PEP is one of 26 programs, nationally, that received a mini-subcontract award under the Service to Science initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This federal initiative supports program evaluation activities at a higher level of methodological rigor. Currently, the program is being evaluated by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Preliminary results will be available in the summer of 2008.
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For more information
For more information regarding the New Jersey Teen Prevention Education Program, please contact:
Chavonne D. Lenoir, DrPH
Program Director, Teen PEP
Princeton Center for Leadership Training
12 Vandeventer Avenue
Princeton, NJ 08542
Phone: 609-252-9300 ext. 109
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