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North Texas teens say 2022 has been about 'healthy relationships and good boundaries'

Two young Texans sit together outside their high school in Dallas.
Jacob Wells
/
KERA News
"Most of my 2022 has been focusing a lot on my mental health," said Anahi Hernandez. "Just healthy relationships and good boundaries."

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re hearing from North Texans about what they've learned this year.

Students across Texas got updated sex education curriculum this year for the first time since the 1990s. This means information on contraceptives alongside abstinence-only instruction. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the summer, limiting abortion options, and underlining the importance of prevention efforts like Healthy Futures of Texas, a statewide organization working to reduce the teen birth rate.

Anahi Hernandez and Mateo Vasquez are 17 years-old and both attend Uplift Atlas Prep in Dallas. They’re also a part of the Healthy Futures of Texas Youth Advisory Board, which educates young people on sex education. They share what they’ve learned this year, what it's like being a teenager in Texas, and what they’re looking forward to in 2023.

2022 in review

Anahi Hernandez: I think of this year as a growing year, not just for me but the people around me. I feel like they've been growing and evolving themselves as people. Everyone has been trying to step up their game, like find a job, or get a car.

Mateo Vasquez: This is our last year of school. We're stepping into more of an independent lifestyle. All we've known for the past 13 years is just school, this big structure that we're placed into, having a schedule from eight to four. And now we'll be on our own and have to make our own schedules.

I feel like being a young person in Texas sometimes can be kind of scary, because there's a lot of headlines about, oh this 17 year-old kid was shot by an officer, or all these school shootings, like Uvalde and everything else. But you can never really dwell on it a lot.

AnahiMateo02_Wells.JPG
Jacob Wells
/
KERA News
For Mateo Vasquez, 2022 was about new friendships. "I also got to experience a lot more freedom than I did experience before," he said. "I was able to go hang out with a bunch of friends more often. Like, I'm really putting myself out there more."

Getting involved in the Youth Advisory Board

Hernandez: Being a part of this group is like having a bunch of friends from all different schools where you can just share your opinions openly and express yourself with issues around your community. We're working on a passion project to end period poverty in our Uplift school, through trying to fundraise money and donate menstrual products.

Vasquez: Working with the youth advisory board gives us a voice.

Hernandez: What's important for people our age to know is that you can talk about [sex education] with adults, your parents, teachers you trust. You can always tell them something, and they can always help you. But you also need to advocate for yourself. What's something you've learned this year that you didn't know before?

Vasquez: I learned a lot about birth control and how stuff works. We had a crash course during the summer. That was very informative. Now I'm a lot less ignorant than what I was before.

Hernandez: I didn't even know there was that many birth controls. There was a lot of things that I didn't know that I probably should educate myself a lot more [on].

AnahiMateo05c_Wells.jpg
Jacob Wells
/
KERA News
"What I guess has just been really meaningful is when you find that little time to just lay down without having to worry about schoolwork or anything," Hernandez said about 2022. "It's just so nice. You really appreciate the time and then you don't even realize like you've missed so much once you're doing it."

Looking forward to in 2023

Vasquez: Man, I'm looking forward to getting out of school. School is not a bad thing. I honestly like school, but I feel like I need to step out of school and I need to experience things on my own. I feel like once I'm out living my life, then I'll really be able to find myself.

Hernandez: I feel like those years after high school, that's when you're trying to find yourself and who you are. See what your calling is.

Vasquez: It's a crazy thing to think about. It's such a big thing in our lives, leaving school, and becoming the person that we are. Everyone older than us has experienced this. And it's our turn now. And I'm ready. I'm so ready for this.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.