Fighting for Education

Sophomore Tessa Peterson participates in Planned Parenthood Teen Council


Photo: Abby Headstrom

Sophomore Tessa Pterson demonstrates her role when presenting for Planeed Parenthood Teen Council. This is Peterson’s first year on Teen Counil.

“I hate you. Why are you here? I hate everything you stand for,” sophomore Tessa Peterson recounts instances of Planned Parenthood’s protestors objecting to her mission of peer sex education throughout Washington’s schools. 

Peterson holds a spot on her local Planned Parenthood Teen Council, which focuses on peer education regarding sexual health. Less than a year ago, Peterson got involved with Teen Council through her mom’s work with Planned Parenthood.

“Teen Council members do formal presentations for schools and community organizations and they are a resource to their peers in day-to-day life,” said Mollie Overby, Peterson’s facilitator and Community Outreach Educator. 

“Teen Council members also do advocacy work, the most exciting of which is Teen Lobby Day in Olympia every January. Members get to meet with their legislators to talk about issues that are relevant to them, ”Overby said. 

 According to Peterson, Planned Parenthood’s Washington Teen Councils successfully lobbied for two bills which Washington state congress recently passed, with a third one that didn’t pass in the House of Representatives last year. 

Outside of their presentations and Teen Lobby Day, members participate in weekly meetings. 

To begin a typical meeting, Peterson explains that she walks into the Eastern King County Council and is greeted by her facilitator and thirteen co-members. She grabs a snack, sips a drink and begins conversing with her peers. Discussions include preparing for upcoming events and other presentations council members will be participating in.

 “This month, Tessa and the other new members of Teen Council will be observing their peers run lessons in the classroom,” Overby said. 

In a lesson,  educators create discussions with students and provide them with new information about sexual health. According to Overby, each Teen Council will participate in over 210 hours of peer education each year. 

“I’m really passionate about going into schools and teaching kids, because I feel like so many kids have a misconception of proper sex education. I feel like it’s just super important to give them the facts,” Peterson said. 

After the meeting, volunteers are encouraged to apply their new knowledge to their community. For Peterson, using what she learns includes observing education within her own school’s community. 

“Compared to other schools, UPrep does an excellent job at sex education,” Peterson said. “One of my only concerns is that we don’t discuss sexuality or gender identity a lot which is a large focus of what we teach in the council.” 

Peterson is excited for the upcoming Teen Lobby Day where she and her fellow members will continue their fight for propper sex education. 

Peer educators will petition for a bill requiring all Washington schools to teach sex education that includes everyone of all sexual and gender identities. According to Peterson, schools currently have no required curriculum. 

“I really think we are going to pass it,” Peterson said.