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NYC Teens Connection blog post

FPHNYC is proud to have secured a new fourth round of HHS funding for the NYC Health Department’s New York City Teens Connection (NYCTC). The program works with hundreds of schools and high-quality, teen-friendly clinics, as well as dozens of youth-serving organizations, to implement evidence-based sexual health education for at least 15,000 youth annually. This new $10 million five-year grant managed by FPHNYC will allow NYCTC to continue its impactful work and, for the first time in the program’s 13-year history, work with youth in grades 6 through 12 in traditional, transfer, international, and District 75 schools.

Mars Estudillo, a 21-year-old NYCTC youth leader alum and current Senior Youth Coordinator with NYCTC, shares some insights on what being involved with the program has meant to them.

Mars Estudillo
Mars Estudillo

I was first introduced to the NYCTC Youth Leadership Team (YLT) through one of their community partners. They were the program leader for Curtis High School Teen Health Promoters Club. They encouraged us to apply as a way to build on our knowledge and interest in teen sexual health. I was 14 when I interviewed and unaware of the stipend. I just applied because I was passionate about helping youth my age understand more about sexual health than what we were taught in school.

As a YLT, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as much growth in myself before. Being a YLT felt empowering, and it helped lead to so many opportunities when it came to working with my community on issues I felt were important. As a YLT, I felt safe and encouraged enough to voice my opinions in both our small meetings and the community events we went to. A highlight of being a part of the program would be the sense of community that was built through the years with both the coordinators and the other youth leaders. We had opportunities to go on retreats together and have all-borough meetings that led to a lot of amazing friendships.

To date, NYCTC has reached 78,261 youth through 389 partner organizations.
With this new funding, the program expects to reach 128,261 youth by June 2028.

During my time as a YLT member, I got the chance to work with my community. We gathered community members to discuss topics we believed youth wanted and needed more information on. This led to a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project that allowed me to serve as a co-researcher and facilitator alongside my fellow YLT members and then build a campaign from the research we had gathered.

After my time as a YLT, I was offered the opportunity to be a senior youth coordinator to support the coordinators in any way that I could. I was given the chance to help interview potential YLT candidates, facilitate workshops with/for some of the YLT, moderate panels, as well as participate in conferences presenting our “Ask Before You Act” campaign and Youth Engagement Guide on sexual consent communication.

Mars, (lower right) at the 2023 Youth Leadership Team alumni event.
Mars, (lower right) at the 2023 Youth Leadership Team alumni event.

For this new grant cycle, I hope the new incoming YLT members get to participate in some sort of research or help launch a new campaign for Youth by Youth. NYCTC has done an amazing job helping youth be heard through the work we do, and I’m excited to see how they continue to move this work forward.

Thank you, Mars, and all of the Youth Leadership Team, for helping New York City Teens Connection grow and have a meaningful impact on the lives of NYC youth.

Mars is a Staten Island native dedicated to advocating for equitable reproductive rights. Outside of their reproductive justice work, Mars is a multi-medium artist who enjoys going to concerts and watching movies.