Carnegie Mellon University

Samantha Gerard, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Talk: The New Sex Ed, Inc.

Democratizing Sex Ed

Teaching kids about relationships, consent, and appropriate and safe sexual behavior is essential for young people to become sexually healthy, aware and responsible adults. Unfortunately, it continues to be glaringly absent from the majority of education for teenagers.

As Carnegie Mellon University’s first post-graduate fellow in social innovation at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, Samantha Gerard (DC 2005; HNZ 2008) developed a two-fold educational model that leverages best practices while addressing the pitfalls and limitations of existing evidence-based approaches. The objective of Talk: The New Sex Ed, Inc. is to empower teens with practical knowledge and tools, grounded in the latest science to make healthy, informed choices — and empower parents to convey their beliefs and values to guide their teen's decision making.

Having honed Talk’s classroom model over the past 12 years through private middle and high school partnerships, a few things have become evident to her.

“Where teens go to school should not dictate the quality of sex education they receive, and right now, it absolutely does,” Samantha says. “As long as sex ed remains embedded within schools, the outcomes that we all care about will never improve.”

The need is dire as currently half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Nearly 21 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed annually. Workplace harassment is making daily headlines, and one in three American women will be raped, physically abused or stalked by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

Samantha’s latest endeavor translates elements of her successful classroom model to the online space, which will extend Talk’s reach exponentially.

CampusChat, a virtual platform targeting rising first-year college students, seeks to provide users with the knowledge and decision-making tools to confidently navigate their own relationships and, ultimately, lead happier, healthier lives.

“If you randomly selected a first-year student on a college campus in the United States, there's only a 13% chance they’ve ever had any formal education about birth control or safer sex practices and a 9% chance they’ve ever had any formal education about consent,” Samantha says. 

“Our failure to prepare them leads to untold unnecessary pain and suffering, and young people deserve better. CampusChat is the first in what we hope will be a portfolio of online products designed to close that gap.”

Story by Elizabeth Speed