We are teenagers who attend Central, Centennial, Urbana and Mahomet schools, and this week we're proud to participate in Planned Parenthood of Illinois' annual Comprehensive Sex Ed Week of Action, which started on September 20. We're passionate about spreading the message for comprehensive sexuality education, because if we teens don't have accurate information, we can't keep ourselves healthy and safe.

The reality is that every year, nearly 750,000 American teens become pregnant, and nearly four million teens contract a sexually transmitted infection. As a member of the Planned Parenthood of Illinois Teen Awareness Group (TAG) peer educator program, we've been trained to talk with our peers about sex, contraception, preventing STIs, and other sensitive issues. You would be amazed at how starved teens are for information. We have seen first-hand that when young people are given the tools to make healthy decisions, the rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections go down. It's a no-brainer.

The Planned Parenthood Sex Ed Week of Action isn't just for teens and sex education at school. Our parents play a critical role in our health and our future. That's why the Sex Ed Week of Action also stresses parent-teen communication. Lots of teens don't know how to talk to their parents about sex, and lots of parents don't know how to talk with their teens about it. The fact is, the more open and honest communication there is between parents and teens, the more likely it is that teens will ask questions, act appropriately, make responsible decisions, and stay healthy. Check out this article we wrote about parent-child communication earlier this year.

Our goal is to focus education at school and at home. And it's also about government policy. For the first time, Congress has provided federal funding to states for comprehensive sex education. Last year, Congress and President Obama created PREP, the Personal Responsibility Education Program, which is dedicating $55 million a year to states to fund sex ed programs. This isn't just an investment in the future of young people, but a much-welcome change from the previous eight years of ineffective abstinence-only funding. We applaud everyone who understands our lives and needs, and supports these efforts, including Governor Pat Quinn, who recently applied for PREP funding for Illinois.

Congress should create policy that addresses real-life situations, not politics. And that's what PREP does. PREP is based on what teens really need, which is education and information. If teens don't have information, then they can't protect themselves. That's just common sense, and that's why the PREP program and effective sex education is critical to the future of this country.

For teens and everyone else, Planned Parenthood of Illinois is Illinois' most trusted provider of effective sex education. Besides our peer education program, Planned Parenthood of Illinois trains professional educators across the state to teach sex education to thousands of young people and parents. They teach everything from how to prevent pregnancy and STIs to how to make responsible decisions and maintain healthy relationships.

The Sex Ed Week of Action is one week out of the year when teens can ask our schools, families, and political leaders to take our lives and our health seriously. Do your part to help us lead healthy lives! Visit www.facebook.com/ppillinoisaction.

-- The 15 teens of PPIL's Champaign Teen Awareness Group:
Kenny, Kaitlyn, Brandy, Monique, Pedro, Michael, Kensington, Latisha, Kendreau, James, Elizabeth, Jade, Emily, Max and Vakiesha