MEET OUR EDUCATORS

Our dedicated sexual health educators are passionate about helping young people make informed decisions about their own sexual health. Drawing on their collective experiences in the fields of public health, (special needs) education, biology, and gender and sexualities, our team directly teaches more than 12,000 students each year and trains hundreds of teachers working in diverse communities around the Bay Area and throughout California. 

Learn more about each team member below! 

 

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
I think back to my adolescence—navigating my teen years with no practical information about my reproductive anatomy or sexual health—and I remember how stressful it felt to hold back the burning questions I had out of fear of judgment. Who would understand? I experienced unwanted “cat calls,” had emotional break-ups, and watched some of my friends become pregnant and/or experience sexual assault. Yet, the only consistent sources of information I had were my friends—not a trusted adult. Today, I feel privileged to be a trusted resource for students, so they don’t have to experience the angst I did, and instead they can feel empowered.

HANNAH BROWN

health education specialist

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO DO
THIS WORK YEAR AFTER YEAR?

The need for sexual health education will never dry up. Humans are incredibly complex, so it’s vital young people have access to medically-accurate programs that encourage critical thinking, promote empathy-building, and consider cultural contexts and students' personal values. A cornerstone of our programs is to help students build healthy communication skills. Giving youth the chance to practice sharing their feelings and values with their peers in a safe classroom environment, with an experienced facilitator, helps them grow their confidence around sexual health topics, which will serve them well for a lifetime.

HANNAH DAY

SENIOR HEALTH EDUCATOR

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT HEALTH CONNECTED'S APPROACH?
Our inclusive approach sets us apart. Because we self-publish, we are able to constantly make changes to not only include the most up-to-date medical information, but also to adapt to the needs of young people. When teaching, I always keep in mind that there may be one student who is questioning their gender, has had an unplanned pregnancy, identifies as intersex, currently has an STI, is not heterosexual, or has been a victim of sexual assault, etc. I know our other educators do the same, and through respecting each student’s personal experience and background, our programs resonate with far more youth.

KEHAU GUNDERSON

SENIOR HEALTH EDUCATOR

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING
PART OF TEACHING?

The most rewarding part of teaching is witnessing students' intellectual and emotional growth first hand. Our curricula are delivered over one or two weeks, depending, and I am proud to see students' transformation  in only 5 or 10 days. I know they are leaving with valuable and potentially life-altering information that they can share with others. At times they even share with me how their beliefs and perspectives have changed; it's very powerful.

DASHANNA JONES

senior HEALTH EDUCATOR

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
The landscape around sexual health is changing at a rapid pace, in large part due to technology. My passion lies in helping families grow the skills they need to have open and ongoing conversations about sexual health. Having worked in youth and family services for several years, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with such an inclusive organization and help parents build skills through our interactive parent workshops and information sessions.

VANESSA KELLAM

PARENT ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING
PART OF TEACHING?

I think it's amazing how much the students learn in such a short amount of time. You can tell they are proud of themselves for being able to give correct answers, and that they can actually have fun with the material. Even those who weren’t as comfortable in the beginning enjoy the lessons by the end, and can use respectful terms about their bodies instead of slang. It is also incredibly fulfilling when you create connections with students, and they open up with me and their classmates—you can tell they feel safe. This is very powerful as one of my goals is to be an ally for who need someone on their side.

BIANCA MALDONADO

health educator

WHY IS SEX ED SO IMPORTANT
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY?

Today technology is pervasive and young people have an overwhelming amount of information at their fingertips. But this information is often not only inaccurate, but it also perpetuates stereotypes and normalizes unhealthy behaviors. But as a health educator, I have the opportunity to help students distinguish fact from fiction so they feel more comfortable in their bodies and are better able to make healthy decisions.

KELLY MCNINCH

health education specialist

WHY IS SEX ED SO
IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY?

Too often youth receive misinformation about sexual health and relationships from TV, movies, peers, or from the internet. While this may seem benign, when youth don’t see accurate portrayals of relationships, sex, and interpersonal communication, it can actually lead to negative health outcomes. Young people need and deserve unbiased and medically accurate sexual health information throughout their lives. They also need guidance from adults so they feel supported. Together, young people can better navigate their adolescence and grow into respectful, caring, and confident adults.

DEANNA QUAN

health education specialist

 

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING
PART OF TEACHING FOR YOU?

I love the positive feedback we get from students and teachers. Students are so appreciative that I will talk with them about topics often avoided by others when we're together in class. Teachers appreciate my help in building skills to deliver sex ed in a sensitive manner. I particularly enjoy working with students with special learning challenges. They are often overlooked for comprehensive sexual health education and yet are most vulnerable.

PERRYN REIS

Associate Director & Senior Health Educator

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT HEALTH CONNECTED’S APPROACH TO TEACHING SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION?
The human experience is multifaceted and complicated. If we don’t provide young people both anatomical and social-emotional knowledge, how can we expect them to make the best possible decisions? I love that although Health Connected is already delivering comprehensive sex ed, we’re always asking “what can we do to improve?” We are always working to broaden the conversation: to empower students to debunk stereotypes, examine power dynamics, and build empathy in all of their relationships. These nuanced discussions give students a voice that helps validates their lived experience--an opportunity they may not otherwise have. 

JENNIFER ROGERS

HEALTH EDUCATOR

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU SEE OUR PROGRAMS MAKING ON THE STUDENTS WE TEACH?
Students are not only learning the basics about how their and others' bodies work, but they are also learning about the dynamics of a healthy relationship, how to recognize abuse and partner violence, how to understand and vocalize their own boundaries, and how to stand up for their friends in unsafe situations. These skills are applicable in all interpersonal situations not only romantic relationships, and can support students today, tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives.

AVRY SCHELLENBACH

health education specialist

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU SEE OUR PROGRAMS MAKING ON THE STUDENTS WE TEACH?
Aside from reducing the number of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies in our communities, our biggest impact is on our students’ social-emotional health. When young people participate in our programs, they often leave with a greater understanding of their values and identities, increased confidence in their ability to communicate, as well as more empathy and respect for others. In the long term, this will help create communities that are safer and more inclusive for everyone.

SANDRA SOTIRIADIS

SENIOR HEALTH EDUCATOR