Our health center in Coachella fulfills a very important community need.
Olga Montes started working for Planned Parenthood in 1998. She now teaches sexual education in Coachella Valley schools (Coachella Valley is comprised of nine different incorporated cities).
The California Healthy Youth Act, signed into law in October of 2015, requires school districts to provide all 7th – 12th grade students with medically accurate, skill-building sexuality education at least once in middle school, and once in high school.
Educators conducted a community outreach pilot program in May of last year. Six lessons informed 8th graders about sexual values, STIs, and contraception, among other topics.
But during the program, the teachers realized the 8th graders needed basic puberty and anatomy lessons before anything else.
“There were so many questions from them,” Olga said. “Basic info was lacking, proper words, how things work, and not being able to talk about it! First, they need to know how their bodies work. They need to be able to say penis, vagina, sperm. They need to say the words.”
Two nurses came to observe Planned Parenthood’s sex-ed program, in case they needed to teach it themselves. But Planned Parenthood found the nurses preferred they continue to teach it.
The Coachella Planned Parenthood sex-ed program has been rolled out in all three Coachella Valley school districts now.
“We’re a different breed,” Olga said. “We have a comfort level. We’re not going to judge people. We present sexuality as a normal, healthy part of being a human being. And people see that.”
Their information can be greatly enlightening to teens. Regarding abortion, “They say, ’We thought that was illegal now?’ There’s relief on their faces when we give them the correct information.”
Planned Parenthood educators often see their former students come into the health center.
“There was one boy who came in to get an STI test, and convinced two of his friends to come with him.”
The health centers also have condom bags that people can come in and pick up. “Moms sometimes come in with their kid to get them.”
The Coachella health center has outgrown its space. “We have two exam rooms and need more,” said Lupe Gomez, Coachella center manager. “Sometimes patients see us as their only health care provider.”
One of the local issues for Coachella Valley patients is transportation. Many do not have cars and busses run about twice per day; getting rides from friends or family may have to figure into patients’ plans.
“There’s such an opportunity for an increased Planned Parenthood presence here,” Olga said. “We’re not so intimidating. We’re an approachable location — and we’re part of this community.”
“I feel proud to be able to help,” Lupe said. “I work with dedicated providers and staff — we’re ready to help without being judgmental.”
–Holly @ Planned Parenthood