Peer Educators Teach Girls
BY MARY LEE HARVEY DIRCKS
Girls Inc. of Omaha has been a safe haven to thousands of girls for nearly 40 years. C.T. Green has been a part of creating that open environment for 20 of those years. She was director of operations before she retired in 2009, and then returned in 2011 as director of health access. “Girls come back to visit after they’ve gone off to college and they say, ‘Ms. C.T., are you still here?’” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been here so long, I’m like a bad penny.”
Green was born and raised in Omaha on 25th and Jackson Streets. She attended classes at UNO but didn’t finish. “It’s the only thing in my life that I regret not doing,” she says. “But I am a hard worker and I do have a passion for what I do, so it has helped me to excel in job opportunities. I really have been blessed.”
Three years ago, Green launched the center’s reproductive health education program for teens. “It was a new position with an opportunity to make some footsteps,” she says. “So I did.” At first she talked with girls individually to get a feel for how to get things started. Her first group began with about 26 girls, she recalls. “We talked every day for a couple of weeks. We just talked,” she says. “We talked about sex. We talked about drugs and STDs. We talked about everything!” Right from the start, she made it clear to the girls that they would be talking about sex and that it would be frank. “We call the body parts by their correct names. A penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina,” she says.
Green is not shy about any subject that relates to the health and well-being of the girls she serves. “I don’t have M.D. or RN after my name, but I know so many people in the medical community who are happy to come and talk to us,” Green adds. Other topics include abstinence, all forms of contraception, menstruation, skin care, breast exams, what to expect at doctor visits, what constitutes good safe dating—the list is endless. “We get specific and talk about the details,” Green says. “My job is to equip them with good, comprehensive information about their bodies. We talk about it like that: This is your body.”
After several weeks, Green charged the girls with the chore of naming the group. “We need to know what to call ourselves,” she said. They answered with: Board of Educated Ladies (BEL) and it stuck. Green ordered slick color-specific jackets embroidered with BEL on the front and the girls’ names on the back. The first-year cohort chose blue, last year was purple and this year’s group has yet to decide. “We wanted to have something to make ourselves stand out,” Green says.
The girls not only learn comprehensive sex education, they teach others. Green set up a program that produces peer educators. “If a teen is going to have sex, their best friend is the first to hear about it, either before it happens or right after,” she says. Green encourages her girls to ask the questions: “Are you sure you want to do that?” Or, “Did you use a condom?” BEL reproductive health peer educators also give comprehensive medically correct presentations to parents, friends and community groups, says Green. She hopes to expand into the schools. Her vision is to generate paid opportunities for BEL reproductive health peer educators to facilitate six-week-long presentations in area schools throughout the city. Upon completion, students would receive embroidered jackets. “I would like to see Omaha flooded with BEL jackets!” Green exclaims.
She is also excited to be a part of the Women’s Fund of Omaha’s Adolescent Health Project. Green says her personal goal for the project “is to arm teens with the knowledge they need to prevent themselves from becoming trapped by teen pregnancy or STDs. We’re all working toward the same goal.”