Diverse cohorts of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are recruited for the program. Selected applicants receive training through online, interactive courses, followed by in-person, in-depth facilitation training. The trained peer-leaders then recruit youth participants and facilitate up to three peer trainings. The whole process takes about three months and sexperts receive a $500 stipend.
Over the past three months, two groups of middle and high school Latina youth and many of their caregivers met one evening a week to participate in the SOMOS pilot program. SOMOS aims to increase understanding about sexual and reproductive health, while strengthening the ability of youth and caregivers to connect in healthy conversation, as well as inspire Latinas to advocate for themselves.
SOMOS, “we are” in Spanish, was created through a human-centered design process supported by the Caring for Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation. The design process involved more than 300 interviews with young Latinas and caregivers in Pueblo and Adams counties, exploring their life goals, and the supports they have, and then exploring the topics of sexuality, intimate relationships, and contraception.
Cohorts of 30 participants in Adams County and 31 in Pueblo – about equal parts of middle schoolers, high school students, and caregivers – recently celebrated completion of the SOMOS program with graduation ceremonies. “We held class for SOMOS in Pueblo every Friday evening. The girls prioritized SOMOS, working out their schedules around the class. Can you imagine teens devoting their Friday nights to a class about reproductive health,” exclaimed Brenda Figueroa, who facilitated the SOMOS program in Pueblo.
“One class fell on the same night as the high school prom. We had girls show up in their prom dresses, their hair all done up and in high heels. They went out to dinner before class and then went to the dance after the class.” They were devoted, says Figueroa, because it’s not your usual program. “Knowing that they made the program, through the human-centered design process, meant the program content was what our youth specifically said they needed and wanted to know more about.”
The SOMOS curriculum included learnings and discussions about communication, reproductive anatomy, mechanics of sex, contraceptives, LGBTQ+ and gender identities, boundaries, consent, self-autonomy, and more.
“It’s easy for people to think SOMOS is simply sex ed, but it’s so much more than that. We are giving people the knowledge and tools to use for important life decisions,” said Brenda Acosta, who facilitated the SOMOS program in Adams County. For example, Acosta said, “We talked about communications throughout the program. After practicing what we had talked about, one mom in my SOMOS class said, ‘Now when my daughter or son wants to talk, I stop and take the time to really listen. This makes the kids want to talk more, to say more. I feel awesome about it and can tell this approach is making a difference.’ We’re seeing SOMOS help to reduce barriers between youth and adults and create family unity.”
“We also saw community building,” Figueroa says. “These individuals came in to SOMOS and didn’t know each other. They built relationships – the girls exchanged phone numbers and snapchat, said “hi” to each other in school and started hanging out. They were able to express themselves in this setting in ways that they can’t in other places and all of them created community and friendships.”
Facilitators, community advisors, and SOMOS participants are providing feedback to evaluators following completion of the SOMOS pilot. Both Brenda Acosta and Brenda Figueroa say their communities are hungry for more SOMOS programming. “Everyone who took part in SOMOS talked about it with their extended families and friends, and many of the moms said they would love for their sons to be able to participate and to engage dads,” said Acosta. “I honestly believe that this is a necessity not only in the Latino community but in the broader society.”
“We are providing middle and high school students with the opportunity to learn important information that may not be offered through school or within their families, like consent for sex, setting boundaries with partners, and contraception. This information and the tools we provide help young Latinas to make good decisions for their health, their bodies and their well-being,” said Figueroa. “This is making a difference in their lives right now, and we hope they will be empowered to advocate for policies that support reproductive rights for all people.”
We are deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling that significantly chips away at the rights and protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. As one of about half of the states in the U.S. that have protected the right to abortion care, now is the time to further advance reproductive equity in Colorado and, in the process, provide a beacon of hope beyond our state.
Colorado is fortunate to have advocates and policy leaders committed to this goal. Building on more than 12 years of intensive efforts in Colorado to safeguard and increase access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, the most recent accomplishment was passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act. With a coalition led by COLOR and Cobalt, and the leadership of Sen. Julie Gonzales, Rep. Meg Froelich and Rep. Daneya Esgar, this timely law affirms and protects the right of all Coloradans to reproductive health services, including abortion care.
This ruling by our country’s highest court is a significant, but not unexpected, setback. It underscores the critical importance of our continuing, shared commitment to create policy, programs and services that make it possible for all people in Colorado – no matter their race, income, background or beliefs – to have access to basic health care and human rights, including abortion care. ReproCollab is dedicated to further advancing efforts to achieve reproductive equity in Colorado. We look forward to working together with communities to ensure our state is a place a state where all people have the power to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive autonomy.
Following our introduction of ReproCollab, we want to also introduce our Kitchen Table. This advisory committee will inform and guide ReproCollab strategies and associated grant funding to advance reproductive equity in Colorado.
The initial members of the Kitchen Table bring diverse perspectives and professional expertise on the myriad of conditions that impact sexual and reproductive autonomy. Each is skilled in listening to and acting on the values and realities of Colorado’s diverse communities, particularly young people of color, low-income families, and people in rural communities. With the Kitchen Table, our aim is to shift the power dynamic so that people who have faced historical and persistent barriers to reproductive health and rights can access the information and services they need, and have the right to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, relationships, and futures. This includes whether and when to use contraception, start a family, or continue a pregnancy.
Over the coming months, we will continue to grow the number of Kitchen Table members, working to further diversify areas of expertise and ensure representation of communities statewide.
With this expertise and community-informed guidance, ReproCollab will provide leadership, advocacy, and funding support for community-based efforts across Colorado to achieve reproductive equity through policy, practice, and programs. We look forward to sharing more as our work progresses and we welcome your input, insights, and feedback always.
ReproCollab is an initiative of Caring for Colorado, with funding support provided by Caring for Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation.
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We are so excited to share the news that ReproCollab has officially launched! The insights generously shared by so many dedicated reproductive rights leaders and advocates have fueled our learning and planning, helping to make this moment possible. Thank you!
Our new name and tagline emphasize the importance of collaboration to achieve our shared goal that all Coloradans have access to the information and services they need and the right to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, relationships, and futures. By listening to and working together with communities that have historically carried the burden of racial, economic, and political inequalities, we will provide grant funding and support leaders and programs across the state to achieve reproductive equity.
You can also learn more about ReproCollab on our refreshed website and sign up to receive news and updates about our work, including funding opportunities. We encourage you to also follow us on LinkedIn. We welcome your feedback, along with any questions you may have.
As you know, our work to achieve reproductive equity is critically important as we face increasing challenges to bodily autonomy and reproductive rights and services. We appreciate your commitment to this cause and value the opportunity to work collaboratively to advance reproductive equity in Colorado.
Juana Rosa Cavero, Director