STARR: Fighting the Stigma and Improving Sexual Health at Marist
“We have a very sexually active campus, but we don’t really talk about it. Which is peculiar because we all know that it’s happening, so why don’t we just work to make it safe?” asks Kathryn Rivera, President of STARR, the newly founded club that will makes its debut on campus in fall 2018.
In conjunction with the Mid-Hudson Valley Planned Parenthood Generation Action Initiative, Students Together for the Advancement of Reproductive Rights (STARR) will focus on something that both Marist and the surrounding community are in dire need of unstigmatized sex education. They plan to be a resource for the students for anything and everything surrounding sexual health from how to use a condom to how to get tested for STDs and hope to make Marist a better, safer campus.
Unfortunately, there’s a taboo about talking about sex, STDs, and reproductive health, and if there’s a taboo about just talking about it, there’s also a stigma surrounding getting people the help they need. STARR hopes to change that by working within the college to promote safe sex and provide much-needed unstigmatized sexual health resources for students. With sex education workshops, events, and community initiatives, there will be countless opportunity to take advantage of its information and resources.
There are so many issues that aren’t being talked about on cam- pus regarding sexual health, and students aren’t comfortable talking to one another, or even a counsel or on campus, about them. STARR will provide a place where students can feel comfortable asking questions and getting help. “I know that we have the health center, and I know that we have counseling, but I think that we need more. I think students need to be able to know that they can talk to other students here,” says Ariana Gordano, Vice-President of STARR.
STARR’s events will be centered around safe sex and sex education, but will address everything that goes along with them. From creating “Senior Week Survival Kits” containing water bottles and condoms, to providing help with much-needed information on STD testing, or hosting a tampon drive for the city of Poughkeepsie. STARR will ben- efit both the Marist student body and the surrounding community.
It’s not just about sex education, says Rivera, “the club is [also] about advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves” especially in the city of Poughkeepsie, “and being able to empathize with people and understand what’s happening in the world. It’s to destigmatize everything you’ve heard in the news.” There are real people in the surrounding city that can’t pay for pap smears or tampons, and don’t have nearly the same amount of access to condoms
that college students do. The club is about helping these people find access to the resources they need. After gaining solid ground improving Marist’s overall sexual education, STARR is hoping to expand to helping the overwhelmingly underserved Poughkeepsie community and providing an opportunity for students to get involved with advocacy and activism in the area.
Rivera and Gordano discussed the club’s ideas for “Period-Packs” for women in Poughkeepsie. These packs will be filled with items college students take for granted when on their period, but that the women in Poughkeepsie desperately need. STARR is planning on running tampon drives on campus as well. We want to “bring a chance for activism on campus, which is something we don’t have a lot of opportunities for, and this one is a great way to get involved in the local community because they really do need a lot of help” says Rivera.
STARR is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, but this does not mean that you must be a supporter in order to join the club. STARR is not political and it’s not just about abortions. The main goal of the club is comprehensive, scientific, and constructive sex education for a school greatly needs it, and to provide aid for a community struggling with sexual health resources.
Under Planned Parenthood’s Generation Action Initiative, STARR will be part of network of young activists across the country organizing events on campuses and in their communities to raise aware- ness about reproductive freedom and sexual and reproductive health.
STARR will work to create lasting change both at Marist and in Poughkeepsie, and the club’s con- nection with Planned Parenthood will provide invaluable resources to Marist students. Because Planned Parenthood provides free STD testing, the test for students will either be free or subsidized by the organization, making them easy and affordable for those who need them. For anything that students may need, from tips on safe sex to advice on abortions, STARR will be able to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.
STARR will also be completely free of the stigma that normally comes with discussing sex, STD’s, and reproductive health, making the club a resource that students will actually feel comfortable taking advantage of. Whether it’s through advocating for increased resources for sexual health, not only at Marist but in the surrounding area, or helping those in need of education or medical care, STARR will become an invaluable addition to the Marist campus this fall.
STARR is still looking for passionate students interested in advocacy to join with them. If you’re looking to get involved, please email mariststarr@ gmail.com for more information.