Quantcast

Students Tackle Teen Health Epidemics Through Creativity

citizen | 11/3/2011, 5:26 p.m.
High school students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have a chance to walk away $2,000...
One Walgreens Expressions Challenge entry winner featured a list of more than 30 consequences and warnings associated with HIV, interwoven into a photograph of the artists own face and hair. Photo: GoldStar Communications

High school students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have a chance to walk away $2,000 richer by December 1 this year, just for expressing their opinions about some of the toughest health issues facing Chicago teens thanks to a special initiative sponsored by Walgreens.

The Walgreens Expressions Challenge is a student engagement initiative that helps CPS high schools address the alarming rates of Chicago teen STDs, HIV and other issues tied to sexual responsibility, through the power of creative expression among its own students. According to a 2011 report issued by the CPS Office of Special Education & Supports, Chicago ranks first and second for the highest rates nationwide of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, respectively, for youth ages 15-19 and saw a 52 percent increase in the number of HIV diagnosis for this same age group from 2000-2009.

Participation in the Expressions Challenge is optional for students to work individually or in groups, both in and outside of school, to submit art, video/photography, or essay/poetry entries, expressing what they know about sexual risks and how they will choose to make healthy decisions for their future.

Three (3) grand prize winners each will be rewarded $2,000, along with $500 for their teachers and $500 for their school. Three (3) second-place winners each will be rewarded $1,500, along with $250 for their teachers.

The program, which Walgreens first launched into CPS high schools in 2007, has given away nearly $60,000 to CPS students, teachers and schools and has reached more than 100,000 teens. This years program offers larger cash prizes, a more comprehensive promotions push, including an expansion to St. Louis, and will directly address four key needs:

  1. Encouraging discussion to promote teen health;
  2. Boosting public school resources;
  3. Cultivating student creativity; and
  4. Leveraging new media and technology

Our goal is to elevate the conversation, said John Gremer, director of community relations for Walgreen Co. One of the biggest contributors to these teen health epidemics is communication. Studies continually show that teens have challenges discussing sexual health with parents, teachers and other adults.

Through this initiative, were giving them a safe and engaging place to talk about the challenges they face when making healthy sexual decisions and then the opportunity to be rewarded for it. This program matters a great deal to us, because it supports our commitment to prevention and early detection on many health challenges facing our community, Gremer added.

Kenneth Papineau, CPSs physical health manager, said, While our comprehensive sex ed programs are growing, the statistics tell us that our students health needs are simply outpacing our impact. We have two staff members overseeing CPSs sexual health education across nearly 700 schools. Were making headway, but there is always room to make what we do great even better.

Papineau added that the prize rewards earmarked for teachers and schools is also a plus, saying that its still common for teachers to come out of pocket to cover costs of materials to support curriculum in the classroom. Over 25 percent of the 2011 Expressions prize money goes directly to support the teachers and the schools. This goes along way, Papineau added.

One winning poetry entry captured a students fictional, but moving, experience as an expecting teen mother living with HIV, but fearing for the future of her unborn baby. Another art entry winner featured a list of more than 30 consequences and warnings associated with HIV, interwoven into a photograph of the artists own face and hair.

Teens can also get information about the contest through a newly created web site (www.expressionschallenge.com); grassroots events and digital outreach through TrueStar magazine; a dedicated Facebook page and a new CTA campaign with QR (quick response) code technology that instantly connects riders to a custom mobile website with just a click of their smart phone cameras. The contest runs from September 13 November 6, 2011 in Chicago and St. Louis.

Chicago winners will be announced on www.expressionschallenge.com and honored in a special awards ceremony in Chicago on or around December 1, 2011, in connection with World AIDS Day. For more information visit www.ExpressionsChallenge.com or contact Rachel Strevey at 312-613-9307 or at RStrevey@goldstarc.com