Tag Archives: Youth

Addressing risky behavior that leads youth astray

In the cultural wars, Obria, a nonprofit chain of pro-life clinics offering a holistic health approach for women, just scored an amazing win. They were given a two-year Title V grant in the amount of $450,000 per year to teach sexual risk avoidance in the states of California and Washington. It is a significant step toward healing a culture steeped in ignorance, which has been critically wounding bodies and souls.

Operating on the assumption that young people engage in sex outside of marriage, public school sex education has become a promoter of it. It is a model destined for failure, focused on accommodating dangerous and immoral behavior rather than reversing it.

Last year, two scientific reviews made headlines concluding that abstinence-until-marriage programs fail to protect kids and also violate their human rights by not supporting their sexual activity. The premise of accommodating license over morality, however, is not only at odds with moral, healthy living, but at odds with numerous other studies reporting that “sexual-risk avoidance” programs reduce risky behaviors and even increase academic success in students.

Much-needed U-turn

The Planned Parenthood sex education model has dominated public schools while abstinence education is actually illegal in the state of California. But the comprehensive sex-risk avoidance model is gaining national acceptance and funding, according to Kathleen Eaton Bravo, an Orange Coast Legate and founder and CEO of Obria, a chain of pro-life medical clinics. Obria offers comprehensive life-centered health to women at 30 clinics in five states with the aim to reach 200 sites by 2021.

“To promote a culture of life, it is important to address the behaviors that lead young people astray by offering education in sexual risk avoidance,” Bravo explained. As the mother of three adult sons and as a post-abortive mom, Bravo understands first-hand that education is the key to making good decisions. Under the Trump administration, she said there is now a greater willingness to fund such programs.

Last October, Obria became the first California-based pro-life organization in 37 years to receive a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services under Title V to teach sex-risk avoidance. “All of our affiliate clinics are implementing the program,” Bravo said. “We expect to see 15,000 students in the first year.”

 Motivation over threat 

Obria Executive Director Mauricio Leone wrote the grant, to teach the curriculum created by the Center for Relationship Education – which bases everything on science supported by research – to promote healthy relationships. It uses the “whole person” approach, nurturing the body, mind, and heart, rather than only focusing only on sexual behavior. And instead of resorting to negativism and threats, it seeks to motivate young people to be their best by simply imparting the facts.

Leone, who is married with two young daughters, was initially impressed by Obria’s pro-life mission, and at first volunteered to write grant proposals. He was soon hired full time and became certified as a risk-avoidance specialist through Ascend – a national organization that represents the field of Sexual Risk Avoidance education as an optimal health strategy to improve opportunities.

“What is being taught now is much more comprehensive than just abstinence education,” Leone said. “It uses the latest scientific information to teach about sexual health and includes the emotional, psychological, relational, emotional, and physical. The main goal is to eliminate all risks associated with sexual activity.”

“While the typical sex education program teaches how to use condoms, we are presenting an entire picture of what a human being is,” Leone said. “Everything we teach is factual and science-based. We inform on the consequences of STDs, and relate methods of contraception— though we don’t normalize them— as we educate about the risks, and show that no contraception is 100 percent effective.”

Given that California does not allow such education in their schools, Leone said that they will train educators to implement the program in their clinics — for teaching patients directly — and in other settings such as churches, as well as Christian and Catholic schools. “I just heard that the Archdiocese of San Antonio is partnering with the University of Texas to implement this curriculum in Catholic schools in Texas,” he said.

In Washington, the program will be offered to the public schools since it is not illegal there. According to Bravo, since many parents in California are not aware that sexual risk avoidance education is not allowed in public schools, she hopes to inform and encourage them to support legislation to change that law.

“This grant was perfect for us, to empower young people to change their lives for such a time as this,” Bravo said. “Now the doors are open again, and committed to life-affirming education.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer

Championing Underprivileged Youth – in Life Skills and Meaning

In Luke 16:10, the Lord Jesus counsels his disciples that someone who is faithful in small things will be faithful in important matters.

That is how Andre Julian, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter, views his role as an ambassador for Jesus Christ.

“It’s the little things that we do, these little acts of faith, that give us as Catholics even more faith as we do them,” said Julian, 48, a Merrill Lynch management executive who has offered his investment insights as a commentator on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business Network.

Motivational mentoring

Julian offers advice to high school and young college students each summer as a mentor with LEAP (Leadership, Excellence, Accelerating Potential), which seeks to provide participants with valuable life skills such as networking, surrounding oneself with positive people, and preparing for job interviews.

The program offers Julian the opportunity to share with young people how the Church sustained him and his family through difficult times, and how the Catholic faith informs his approach to work and his outlook on life.

Julian emphasized that being a LEAP mentor allows him to offer his Christian witness in an authentic and natural way, not in a proselytizing manner.

Life raft of the Church

“Our job as ambassadors is to present the good news. God will take care of the rest,” said Julian, who was only three years old when his parents divorced. His mother, who was Catholic, found strength and healing in the Church.

“From an early age, I associated the Church with something that healed my mom and made her feel better,” Julian said. “When I was very young, she told me that Jesus is the most important thing in your life. He will get you through the difficult times.”

As a teenager and young adult, Julian said he wavered in his faith at times, but he never stopped praying or reading the Bible. In college, he met his wife, Christine, who was also Catholic, and they chose to live the faith as a family. They have a daughter, Chloe.

Living Catholicism on purpose

Deciding to live as an intentional Catholic, a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, places demands on one’s life that Julian compared to a police officer who puts on a uniform and is reminded that he or she represents something bigger than oneself.

“When you label yourself as a Catholic, then you have to live it,” Julian said. “It forces me to be consistent in my beliefs and it forces me to make decisions.”

As a Legatus member for 2 ½ years, Julian sees the organization’s mission as interwoven with the Great Commission.

“We are called to be ambassadors of Christ out in the world,” he said. “I see Legatus as a place where you can go and speak with likeminded people who can give you strength and who can fill you with discussion and knowledge, and make sure that your faith is kept strong.

“But out in the world, I think, is where we have the most impact,” Julian said. “There are these things we as Catholics do to gain strength, but then we need to go out into the world and we need to do something with what we’ve been given.”

A friend got Julian involved in the LEAP program, which brings young people from across the country and the world together for a week every summer and seeks to provide them with the life skills they will need to be successful adults. Most of the young people in the retreattype program come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mentoring others stirs own faith

As a LEAP mentor, Julian makes himself available to groups of participants who interview him about his life. Julian said being a mentor has made a positive impact in his own life.

“It’s just a phenomenal program,” said Julian, who has done TED talks but added that the LEAP program gives him a chance to discuss the biblical themes that undergird his perspective on life. The program is secular in nature, but gives him a natural platform to share his faith.

“I can tell them my story. I can tell them my background, that I came from a broken home,” Julian said.

Sharing his story has also prompted Julian to learn more about his own Catholic faith, and to try to be a credible witness by authentically living the faith’s tenets every day, whether he is at home, work, socializing with friends, or guiding young people.

Said Julian, “It forces me to look at my actions and ask myself what am I doing to be a better man of God, to be a better family man and a better man of faith. When you’re in a position where people are looking at you for advice, and you have to responsibly give that advice, then you have a responsibility to yourself, to your faith, to God, to act out that advice.”

Talking is one thing, but Julian, a martial arts enthusiast, said principles must be put into action. Every day.

Said Julian, “It’s in our acts that we become known.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.