Tech Programs Distribute Birth Control and Spread Awareness, But Is Anyone Aware of Them?


Brooklyn Tech has put considerable resources into providing birth control to students through programs, including the Condom Availability Program (CAP), and Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Healthcare (CATCH). All of these programs are free, confidential, and open to all students. These programs have proven to be beneficial and counselors encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities to ensure their safety, but few students are aware that they exist.

A recent poll showed that only 6% of students are aware of the CATCH program, and just 9% of students are aware of the CAP program. The CAP program is seeking to remedy this problem by setting up information tables in the cafeteria and visiting classrooms. With the amount of resources available, it is vital that students become aware of these programs.

CAP provides students with male and female condoms. It is located in BE4, where it works in partnership with Children’s Village, a social work program that provides mental health support to students. The room is full of colors and posters, thanks to the decorating skills of the six interns working as social workers under the supervision of Ms. Lakiesha Simpson, who has been running the program at Tech for five years.

In addition to condoms, CAP provides students with lubricant, Plan B, directories for health clinics, and social workers offering comprehensive information about sexual health. If a student is uncomfortable with receiving direct help from the school, social workers can refer students to other resources such as Planned Parenthood where students can feel safe getting pregnancy or Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) tests, seeking abortion options, or learning about family planning.

For its part, Children’s Village contributes mental health services to foster an environment where students feel comfortable receiving CAP’s sexual health benefits. “Most schools have kids struggling emotionally,” said Simpson. “We need to be in a space that provides those [mental health services] in order to be able to provide the [CAP] services.”

The CATCH program, launched in 2011 in thirteen schools to provide reproductive health services, including pregnancy tests and oral and emergency contraception. It also provided students with access to the Depo-Provera shot and the NuvaRing; both alternative forms to traditional hormone regulation. Unfortunately, the program has been discontinued at Tech because there is no longer a licensed nurse in the building to provide these resources. However, the school is seeking to find a replacement. In the meantime, students can reach out to social worker Ms. Christina Martini to get the CATCH assigned phone number or go to Nurse LaFleur in the infirmary.

Simpson underscored the importance of sex education, especially at Brooklyn Tech. “This school has a different population than most schools,” said Simpson. “Many students are very religious or come from cultures where sex is considered taboo. Sometimes, parents tell [their children] something that can endanger them.” She noted an instance where a mother told a student information that would harm them, and she felt it was important to correct the mother and inform the student with factual information. She explained that her job, along with the interns, is to correct or interject during conversations regarding sex to make sure students observe safe practices.

Although there is a need for programs such as CAP and CATCH, not all schools provide them, and not everyone supports them. “Most schools don’t want anything to do with condom availability,” said Simpson. Even though research shows that CAP programs in high schools do not increase sexual activity, only 7.2% of high schools have them. Additionally, parents have the option to have their students opt out of the CAP program. In past years, according to Simpson, almost half of the parents at Brooklyn Tech opted out their children from the program, though this trend may be changing.

Simpson noted a shift in the culture at the school. This year, only eleven students in the entire school have opted out of the CAP program. She also mentioned that there are more female students than in past years coming down to BE4.“Before, it was mostly boys coming down. Now, there are more girls,” she said. “Girls are making sure that they are ready and in a position to protect themselves. They are advocating for themselves and taking control over their own bodies.” Not only does the CAP program keep students safe, but it has empowered students to make the right choices for themselves.