Third annual CoSHI Summit spotlights transformative sex ed approaches

The third annual CoSHI Summit took place from Aug. 7-9 in the charming town of Avon, Colo., providing an engaging hub for approximately 90 educators, Division of Youth Services staff, social workers, and community members who provide sexual health education workshops for youth in Colorado. The summit created a lively space where experts from Colorado and across the United States gathered to share insights and new strategies for educating and guiding young people around topics such as consent, healthy relationships, and sexual health. 

Hosted by the Colorado Sexual Health Initiative (CoSHI), the Summit originally began as a grantee meeting in 2012, where and agencies and counties receiving funds via the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grant were required to attend to discuss annual reporting and grant requirements., Over the last three to five years the CoSHI Summit has evolved and has become one of Colorado’s only large- scale spaces events where topics such as disability justice, purity culture and, anti-oppressive practices , and incorporating an anti-racist approach into sex ed are discussed while incorporating an anti-racist approach to sex education. 

The 2023 gathering emphasized the significance of sex education in challenging sexual and reproductive disparities among BIPOC communities, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Attendees heard from Colorado Springs-based Poet Laureate of the Pikes Peak Region Asheley Cornelius who fosters healing, growth, and radical self-acceptance by combining her poetic ability with her work in the field of mental health, showcasing the transformative influence of creative expression in sex education.

“Education is a revolution—a way for people to progress, find their voices, and craft their unique
stories,” said Cornelius.

Stephanie Zapata, an expert in cultivating thriving spaces for youth, emphasized the importance
of reimagining sex education. With a compelling invitation, they encouraged educators to infuse
emotional well-being into sex education curricula, shifting away from traditional models
centered on abstinence.

“We can’t only use logic, and not talk about feelings. We have to talk about them,” highlighted

Moreover, attendees had the privilege to glean insights into purity culture through the expertise
of Erica Smith who has been a sexual health educator for more than 23 years. 

Smith elucidated, “Purity culture stigmatizes any expression of sexuality that doesn’t align with a
major religious belief system.” Recognizing the biases of these underpinnings empowers sex
educators, parents, and caregivers to foster an environment that adeptly guides young
individuals, equipping them with comprehensive sexual knowledge and empowering them to
navigate their experiences wisely.

Additionally, the 2023 CoSHI Summit embraced innovation by featuring Camila Spanic, a
public health activist, and Amanda Ford, a University of Colorado Colorado Springs
(UCCS) student, who both use TikTok as a tool to engage young audiences in conversations
about sexual health. As creators of @youthunfiltered, their content has resonated widely with
young audiences garnering thousands of likes and making a substantial impact.

Beyond a mere gathering of minds, the CoSHI 2023 Summit celebrated progress and beckoned
change. Sex educators rallied around the mission of reshaping sex education—making it holistic,
inclusive, and emotionally empowering. As the echoes of the event continue to reverberate, it’s
clear that this transformative gathering has fortified the path toward a brighter, well-informed
future, thanks to the camaraderie and insights shared.

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