Senior Spring Fever Seminars Address Sex Ed Gap between Lower and Senior Year

Senior Spring Fever, a new pilot sexual-education program for Seniors, was launched by Amy Patel, Medical Director at Isham; Andrea Orben, Health Educator; Sarah Robinson, Nurse Practitioner; and 19 other volunteer members of the faculty and staff during the first three weeks of Spring Term as a way to enhance the current sexual-health education offerings.

Inspired by the program that Beth Buyea, Andover Medical Consultant, created as former Medical Director at Northfield Mount Hermon, the 90-minute, non-mandatory seminars revolved around a variety of topics, such as healthy relationships, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and rape.

“People had questions about even some of the basics. Either we are not getting [the message] effectively across the first time, or they just need some reinforcement, which is actually more likely. Maybe when they learned about STDs when they were 14, it just wasn’t on their minds to even be engaging in intercourse or contracting STDs. But, as students get older, it becomes a little bit more practical information,” said Patel.

Students at Andover currently have sexual education during their Junior and Lower years in Biology 100, Personal and Community Engagement (PACE) classes and Physical Education (PE) class. Afterwards, however, students don’t have any opportunities to further their understandings on sex, making it necessary for there to be a sexual-education class for Seniors, according to Robinson.

“If you have PE during Freshman Fall, for instance, all of a sudden it’s Senior Spring and a lot has changed. Someone could have come out during that gap of time, and things that were relevant then are not anymore. So now, given the new situation, that student really needs to think more about the risk factors that they are going to be facing. I think it is important to close the loop,” said Robinson.

Robinson also acknowledged that current methods of sexual education, like PE classes, were not adequate in addressing the growing needs of Andover students.

As Seniors make the transition from Andover to college, they are also transitioning to a new health-care provider on campus. Robinson and Patel hope to use this new class to promote self-advocacy in the Seniors for when they meet with physicians and care providers in college and beyond.

Additionally, with the recent reliance students have on the Internet, Robinson said that the program hopes to eliminate the potential for students to gather false information.

“The nice thing about [these classes] is the access to medical providers teaching these classes and having really easy-going, friendly conversations. I never felt like I had so much access as a teenager to a doctor or a nurse practitioner who was available to talk about these things,” Robinson said.

“We know that there is more to do. We think that we need several more hours every year over four years to have the comprehensive, age-appropriate, inclusive health education program or sex-education program that we are striving for,” Patel said.

Patel acknowledges the need to include day students, who do not benefit from dorm talks about sex and reproductive health, in the sexual-education program.

“We want to make sure that the stuff that is covered in regards to reproductive health care topics in that setting can be reproduced in another place for the day students who wouldn’t get that in a dorm meeting….We certainly want to make sure that day student advisors can talk to their advisees about health issues, but the more specific stuff may be coming better from health-care providers or health educators at Isham,” said Patel.

Patel and Robinson admit that the turnout of students was not as great as they had originally hoped, as Robinson’s class had only eight students. They plan to continue the program next spring, however. One of the areas for improvement in the Senior classes will be generating a meeting time that would fit into the schedules of the largest number of Seniors possible.

“We’re trialing new ways of disseminating health information. We have some forums set up already, such as Wellness Week, PACE and the dorm conversations that happen. We don’t feel like we need to do this all in the classroom. We don’t need to do this in a seminar format with 15 or 20 people that you don’t know very well,” said Patel.

Patel and Robinson hope that there will be classes of a similar size and nature to the Senior Spring Fever classes for Juniors, Lowers and Uppers in the coming month.