Document Type



Doctor of Education


Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

E. Wendy Saul


Phyllis Balcerzak

Brenda Bredemeier

Matthew Davis


This qualitative study explores the experiences of former participants in a Planned Parenthood youth development and sex education program, Teen Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH). Phenomenologically-based interviews centered the question, “What did it mean to participate in TASH?” Chapter 1 introduces the study context and synthesizes foundational literature from the fields of sex education, public health, critical pedagogy, civic engagement, youth development, and youth organizing. Chapters 2-4 each contain complete manuscripts, representing three complementary analytic approaches to a common data set and inviting multiple audiences. Chapter 2 addresses sex educators in describing TASH’s “rights-based” sex education model. Research questions included: (a) How did youth advocacy occur within a rights-based sex education program? and (b) What did advocacy experiences mean to former participants? Chapter 3 explores how TASH experiences influenced participant sociopolitical development across organizational and individual levels using a multi-leveled empowerment framework. Research questions were: (a) What empowering processes occurred on an organizational level? (b) What empowerment outcomes did former YOG participants experience? and (c) How did they relate empowerment to career decision-making? Chapter 4 examines TASH’s social justice discussion pedagogy in the context of a higher education debate on trauma trigger warnings, asking: (a) How did adult leaders design and implement discussion-related pedagogy? (b) What were former TASH participants’ experiences of discussions? and (c) How did participation in TASH dialogue inform their transitions to a civically-engaged adulthood? Findings and recommendations accompany each manuscript. Chapter 5 serves as a final comment on the body of work in the aggregate with implications for theory, practice, and method for both author and audience. These studies highlight the potential of youth organizing groups like TASH to support the development of change agents ¾young people who are capable, critically aware, and committed to social change.