Our work allows us to work in partnership with many young people across Mississippi and the South. One of them is Project ME. Influencer MaKena Bailey, whom we spoke to recently about her experience working with us.
How has your experience been with Project ME. been so far?
It’s been fun. It gives me a chance to work on my social media skills, like editing video and public speaking. It doesn’t feel like a school project.
What is one issue that you are excited to work on with the ME. project?
The thing that I like that we talk about most is probably (safer) sex, red flags (in relationships), trusted adults, and what to look for in a partner (healthy relationships).
Why do you think it’s important that young people, trusted adults, and people in general learn more about safer sex, and consent, how to find trusted adults, and be a better trusted adult?
(Sex is) a real thing that happens, (and) a lot of people … don’t really know about safer sex, what to look for in a friend or classmate or adult (in their lives). A lot of people don’t know what to look for because a lot of sexual health talk in Mississippi is taboo. Nobody wants to talk about sex before marriage, but the reality of it is that people are going to have sex before marriage. A lot of that happens like in the high school and college settings, but it’s not really taught to us because of the belief that mostly everybody in Mississippi’s going to stay abstinent until marriage. I think there’s not enough education on it.
Why are organizations like THMS and the ME. project important to youth and communities in Mississippi?
We had one class in the eighth grade, and the reason that everybody signed up for it was because we didn’t have to be in class. We’re seniors now. I feel like it’s kind of similar for other schools in Mississippi.
Sex ed* is not a required class in Mississippi, so there’s a lot of misinformation or lack of information, and I think that Teen Health Mississippi is really starting to close that (education) gap.
Why is it important that young people have a voice in the conversation and partner with adults?
The youth are the next generation. This is going to be stuff that everybody on the ME. project can tell their kids, like, “Hey, I was on this project, and I learned this and that about safer sex, so now I can share this
information with you, and you can share with your friends.” We can continue to pass it on. It’s kind of a generational thing. That’s information that you can keep passing on and passing on and passing on. Adults working with youth is going to help the people that are coming next.
*Mississippi schools must choose between abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curriculum.