Vail Daily column: Open communication leads to good decisions | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Open communication leads to good decisions

I am so passionate about the Red Ribbon Project — I was a board member for the past three years and still continue to teach the Cuidate (Take Care of Yourself) teenage pregnancy prevention program. I was so sad to step down from the board, but my life became too busy to dedicate the time I wanted. Surprisingly, I grew up in the Vail Valley, and I was actually the eighth baby born at the medical center.

I made some very serious life choices at a young age — I got married a few months after graduating high school. Two years later, I was a mom to two amazing boys, Angelo and Andres. Seven years later, my husband and I welcomed Antwon. I have a husband who is very supportive. I've been able to go back to school and get my MA certificate, allowing me to expand my career working in the medical field. I now work at Women's Health at Valley View Hospital.

My young age, my passion for working with women and kids, raising three boys — these are all reasons as to why I am so supportive of Red Ribbon Project. When I was growing up, we didn't talk about these sensitive topics — we didn't discuss sex, healthy relationships (yes, the two are very different), good choices or what the future could hold.

These conversations "didn't happen." We had to rely on our friends and ourselves to figure out what was fact or fiction. Parents, teachers and adults didn't want to broach these issues with us. I was blessed to come from a mixed cultural family. My father is Latino but my mother is Caucasian. My mother was very open and would talk with me about anything. All of my friends were very comfortable coming to her for advice. I knew I wanted to be that mom, too. I am very open in discussion with my children and their friends, I treat them like they matter and in return they are confident enough to come to me as needed.

But what about the kids who don't have that option of an open, safe dialogue? These are some of the misconceptions that I hear from young people:

• "Only gay people are at risk for HIV."

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• "You can't get pregnant the first time."

• "Why would you even need to have sex if you're not making a baby?"

• "When do guys start their periods?"

This only reinforces the passion I feel for Red Ribbon Project. Through the Red Ribbon Project programs we are able to help foster conversations, providing accurate, age-appropriate programs with quality teachers. We build honest relationships where real questions are asked — and answered. Red Ribbon Project shares its "Positive Prevention" mission with young people. Red Ribbon Project focuses on sexual health and well-being, which has contributed to significant declines in substance use, dating violence, self harm and in teen births in the community. I hope you will join me helping Red Ribbon Project celebrate 20 years, as it takes an entire community to create change.

Taneshia Lozano is passionate about the services Red Ribbon Project provides. For more information on the Red Ribbon Project, its 20 years of community service and future events, visit http://www.RedRibbon Project.org.