Starting Tuesday, August 23, and ending on Thursday, October 16, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth ages 12 to 14 participated in the Native It’s Your Game Project (NIYG), an evidence-based multimedia computer program designed to teach youth about sexual health and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and teen pregnancy.
The NIYG Adaptation Project is a multi-site research project that is being carried out in partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), Indian Health Service and the University of Texas Prevention Research Center. The adapted curriculum is currently being evaluated across the three tribal regions. Funding for the project is being provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Teresa Masayesva, social program supervisor, “NIYG was brought to our Reproductive Health Committee here in the Community by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. The whole purpose of our Reproductive Health Committee is to educate youth and families to prevent teen pregnancy, HIV and STDs. NIYG fits [that] goal, so the Salt River Recreation Department took on this initiative and trained staff to become site coordinators in order to carry this [project] through.”
Participants were first introduced to NIYG at a kick-off celebration held at the Salt River Community Building on Thursday, September 18. During the kick-off, parents and their children were able to ask questions and receive more information about what NIYG has to offer. Eighteen teens were given parental consent to participate in this four-week program.
When asked about parental feedback at the kick-off event, Masayesva said, “We had a lot of feedback over the phone, where parents wanted to sign up their children. Once they heard [that the program covered] early pregnancy, STDs and HIV prevention, a lot of the parents said, ‘My kid needs this.’ We had some parents who insisted that their child needed the education, which is good to know,” said Masayesva.
This four-week program teaches participants about abstinence and how to prevent pregnancy and STDs. Out of the 18 who signed up, 12 were present on Tuesday, September 30 to engage in two 50-minute lessons while enjoying pizza and gaining educational information that could be beneficial for them and for the Community as a whole.
“In order for NIYG to target the Native American population, they coordinated a [special] curriculum. The characters are Native, their accents are Native and they’re brown-skinned,” said Masayesva about the computer lessons. “In one of the scenes, an elder man talks about what it means to become a provider to a family and the responsibilities that come along with it. It also incorporates culture, and there’s a lot of good information provided.” This curriculum will help the Native participants to connect and feel a little more at ease with the Native characters.
Youth who complete this four-week program will receive a night out at the Arizona State Fair on behalf of the Salt River Recreation Department. They will also receive a certificate of completion and leave knowing how they can prevent teen pregnancy, HIV and STDs.
“I don’t think this gets discussed enough, because that’s the core of a family, when you understand what a healthy relationship is, what that means and what that feels like. I don’t think we go over it enough. It’s brushed over. I think we need to discuss it a lot more as young girls and young men. [These classes] can be a part of preventing pregnancy, STDs and HIV,” said Masayesva.
Those who have participated in this program will receive a follow-up call within one year after completion. The ITCA will ask participants how helpful this program has been, and in return participants will receive a gift card.
For more information about the NIYG project and upcoming classes, contact Social Program Supervisor Teresa Masayesva at (480) 362-6360.