Investing in the future
Adolescent health outreach team connects with Omaha youth to build community
When Dayanara told her mom about the Omaha Teen Generation (OTG) youth group, her mom wanted her to join to meet new people. Nearly three years later, the OTG group has provided Dayanara with new friendships, mentorships and lessons she plans on carrying with her into the future.
“This group is educational, got me out of my comfort zone and gave me many fun memories,” said Dayanara. “I’m so happy I’ve been a part of OTG and have had a safe space to ask questions and learn.”
OneWorld’s Adolescent Health Outreach team believes that every teen should have access to sexual health education. Many adolescents do not have the resources they need or an adult they feel they can trust to learn about sexual health.
Luis Vazquez, Adolescent Health Outreach Manager, and Adolescent Health Educator, Ericka Alvarez, spend their days connecting with students at schools, events and through the OTG group to help break down those barriers and normalize conversations about sexual health.
“Teens may think they know everything, but realistically we don’t,” said Dayanara. “There’s so much misinformation being pushed out by other uneducated teens and even adults, so having a safe space to ask questions about more intimate subjects is very important.”
Trust and relationship building are vital elements to sexual health education. Whether through a short classroom presentation, outreach event or in the bi-weekly OTG meetings, Vazquez said his team is dedicated to providing a positive experience for teens.
“We want to connect and interact with every teen we meet so we can build that trust,” said Vazquez. “That way, when we give our presentation or bring up the topic of sexual health, teens are receptive to it and can carry that knowledge with them.”
The Covid-19 pandemic put a hold on going to schools and hosting events, but this year the adolescent health team is back in full force getting involved in the community. In the spring of 2023, the team hosted an event open to Omaha teens to dance, meet other teens, learn about OneWorld and get tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Vazquez said his team is looking forward to continuing to find new ways to provide safe spaces for teens in the community to have fun experiences.
In addition to being present in the community, the adolescent health team leads the Omaha Teen Generation youth group. Members of OTG are graduates of OneWorld’s sexual health program and are chosen based on their commitment to helping others learn about sexual health and their desire to make a difference in their community.
“The 11 adolescents in this group are a big part of our team,” said Vazquez. “They provide feedback and help us connect with other teens outside of the group. We could not do what we do without them.”
Earlier in 2023, OneWorld opened the Park Avenue outreach center. Vazquez said this physical space has played a crucial role in giving OTG members a sense of belonging and safety.
Members of OTG attend bi-weekly meetings at the new outreach center and participate in community activities such as local parades, community events and outreach functions.
Adriana, OTG member, joined the group after seeing the adolescent health outreach team’s presentation. Her sister had previously been a part of OTG, so Adriana thought she should try it out for herself.
“Around the country, sexual illiteracy is rampant, but OTG strives to change that,” said Adriana. “We learn how to start the conversation about sexual and mental health and that really helps other youth like me. OTG has made me realize my passions and that I can achieve great things when I put in hard work and love.”
OTG members are typically recruited while in eighth or ninth grade. Members are allowed to stay in the group as long as they desire to cultivate decision-making and self-awareness.
“This group gives youth something to do, and purpose in what they do,” said Vazquez. “We are there as their mentors to help them however they need because we want to help the next generation be successful.”
Vazquez said he wants every OTG member to leave the group ready for their next step in life and to know they have an adult they can turn to whenever they need it, whether to talk through a problem, get a recommendation letter or simply to reconnect.
“At OneWorld, we value community,” said Vazquez. “By working with the teens in our community, we are helping the community be involved in its own development. Our youth are the future, and investing in their success is a privilege.”
OTG goes to KC
In the summer of 2023, the Omaha Teen Generation (OTG) youth group traveled to Kansas City for a mini-retreat. The group went to the Worlds of Fun amusement park and stayed in a house together where they cooked a family-style dinner and watched movies.
Luis Vazquez, Adolescent Health Outreach Manager, said these trips are a way to thank the group members for their dedication and hard work and to encourage self-reflection.
“Our members wanted a sort of introduction to college, and staying in that house gave them that and more,” said Vazquez. “They got a sense that being a part of OTG is more than a responsibility, it’s a family.”
Next year, the group is planning to go camping in Wyoming.