USC Upstate Students Named to the South Carolina Youth Council for Policy Change

January 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

New Morning Foundation named Canisha Cantey and Aislyn Garris, students from USC Upstate, to its newly-created South Carolina Youth Council for Policy Change. The 10-member council includes students from colleges and universities across the state who will advocate for improvements in sexual health education.

“It’s an honor to have been chosen to serve as a campus leader. This is an incredible opportunity to get real world experience working with university officials, legislators and community advocates to shape sexual health policies in my city, state and nation,” said Cantey.

Council members will work in partnership with the New Morning Foundation’s e-advocacy network called Tell Them to build a coalition of college and community advocates that support age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. Members were selected through an application process and will serve a one-year term. In addition to receiving a monthly stipend, they will benefit from intensive training on leadership development, public speaking, writing, grassroots organizing and government affairs.

The Council’s formation comes at a critical time for South Carolina’s young people who face some alarming statistics: 3 in 10 young women in our state will get pregnant before age 20. One in five new HIV/AIDS cases reported in South Carolina is among people age 25 and under. And, youth ages 15-24 account for almost half of new sexually transmitted infection cases.

Student advocates will be tasked with beginning a dialogue among their peers on these issues. Research shows that frank conversation about personal responsibility, pregnancy prevention and family planning is the best way to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection rates, including HIV/AIDS. The Council will be known on campuses as Knowledge Is Best (KIB), a name selected to underscore a core goal of arming students with the information they need to make wise health decisions.

The Council is the result of a recent grant to the New Morning Foundation from the Washington, DC-based Advocates for Youth. Other states including Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia have received similar grants in the past and proven that this kind of youth activism can lead to substantive policy change. “We are thrilled to be able to work with our state’s young people in this capacity. This future generation of leaders represents a powerful voice in creating a healthier South Carolina,” said Emma Davidson, Tell Them program manager.