Sex can be an uncomfortable topic for many teenagers. Though many teens won’t admit it, I think that we wish could have more honest conversations with our parents about it.

In my family, talk about sex just didn’t happen. We moved to California from Mexico when I was 5 years old, and my family is still very much a traditional Hispanic family who doesn’t really discuss the topic. At some point during my teenage years, my parents did express that sex was to be saved for marriage, and that was about it.

VIKKY FLORES, 18, is a first-year student at Santa Rosa Junior College. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

There were also a lot of stereotypes I had to deal with because I was a young Latina woman. Many people just assumed I’d be pregnant by 16, and I felt like no one really expected anything different for me.

The first time an adult really talked with me about sex was during a sex education class when I was in seventh grade. I appreciated the information presented, but dismissed it a stuff adults need to know, not me. By eighth grade though, I found myself bombarded by sexual messages and felt an intense amount of pressure from my peers to be sexually active. My choice to wait was now being challenged. It felt like I was the only one making this choice.

The summer before I started high school, I saw a presentation by Free to Be that helped me understand my feelings about my choice to wait. Free to Be visits junior highs, high schools and other youth groups, talking about sex. Except instead of just talking about how to reduce the risk of being sexually active, they talked to us about the benefits that can come from postponing sexual activity.

Not many people talk about the option of waiting, but Free to Be brought some high-school-age students who shared their experiences and reasons for making the decision to wait until marriage.

I was really impressed by their presentation, because it didn’t feel like they were forcing me to make a decision or telling me what to do, but rather they were offering another option. They recognized teens receive many messages and views around sexual choices. Their message was clearly about sexual risk avoidance, but they spoke in a way that reached everyone, even the teens in my class who were sexually active.

They shared with us that even if we have made choices in the past that had consequences that were hard, that we had the choice to make a different decision in the future. The Free to Be presenters had a way of communicating that made us feel valued.

After the presentation, I finally felt like I had some concrete reasons and evidence for choosing to wait, and I was able to see that there are other teens making this choice too. It increased my confidence to the point where I wanted to share with other teens this important message. Without hesitation, I signed up to be trained as a peer educator, and I joined the Free to Be team!

I never could have guessed that I would be a public speaker, speaking in many schools throughout Sonoma County, to hundreds of teens each year. Being able to develop the courage to stand up for myself and inspire other teenagers to make healthy sexual choices is something that I will always credit to my involvement with Free to Be.

When I entered high school, I was a lost Hispanic teen unsure of what the future could possibly hold for me. Now, as I am in my first year of college and my fourth year volunteering for Free to Be, I know that the choices that I have made and continue to make are preparing me for a successful future.

To all those who doubted, to all those who tried to stereotype me, look at me now. My name in Maria Virginia Flores, I am from Santa Rosa High School’s Class of 2013 and I have impacted many teens and adults alike with my words.

(Vikky Flores graduated from Santa Rosa High School and now attends Santa Rosa Junior College, where she is studying to become a civil engineer.)

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