The Zellars

Keyara Zellars, 16, has big plans — finishing high school is her number one priority and she has dreams of becoming a pediatrician or enlisting in the Marines. One thing that hasn’t been part of her life since going through the 4Me Teen Health Project is getting in trouble.

The 11th grader who loves to play basketball was one of the first teens to participate in 4Me, a comprehensive sex education program that educates teens, works with parents on improving their communication and knowledge and engages teen leaders in a six-month project.

Keyara participated in the program at Victory Pointe, a Jacksonville Housing Authority apartment complex, in November 2011. She went on to join the Teen Leadership Council, working with several other teen leaders from the complex to develop, write and perform a skit about safe sex, date rape and HIV/AIDS.

“Most of us didn’t know what sex was,” she said of herself and her fellow classmates before going to 4Me. “We didn’t know about diseases.”

The most important information she got out of the classes was the explanation of diseases — what they were and how they could hurt you. She found the classes so beneficial that she talked her mom into sending the rest of her siblings.

“I think [they] should go. They’re going to need it in life,” she recalls telling her mother. “If they don’t know [the information], now’s the time for it.”

Keyara has always had an open relationship with her mother, Nichelle, who was happy to see her children take part in the program. Nichelle also took part in the parent workshop.

“I like the program because it keeps young kids out of trouble and gives them something to do,” Nichelle said. “My kids enjoyed being a part of the program. They learned a lot about being safe.”

After the conclusion of the Teen Leadership Council, Keyara became a Peer Health Advocate, a project of the Duval County Health Department. The group of Victory Point PHA’s has been spreading information and resources through conversations with teens and young adults in their life and other group projects.

Recently, the group developed a slogan and are creating a video about STDs and pregnancy that shows the struggles young females go through they get pregnant
“It’s something you need to know,” Keyara said.