Passion to help others leads to award for UBCO student

Sex is a natural part of growing up, but not all young people have a trusted advisor they can go to for some advice.

Sarah Bryant has received the Options for Sexual Health Volunteer of the Year Award. The Master of Arts in Education student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus is passionate about volunteering and helping others.

Young people are curious about sex. It is a natural part of growing up, but not all young people have a trusted advisor they can go to for some advice.

That is where Options for Sexual Health (OPT) comes in. The staff and volunteers are trained to help young people navigate the dangers, and joys, of sex.

For her tireless work with the organization, Sarah Bryant was recently awarded the OPT Volunteer of the Year Award. OPT has 61 sites throughout the province and hundreds of volunteers.

The Master of Arts in Education student at the UBC Okanagan campus has initiated numerous community outreach programs and has built up such a strong rapport with students that they do not hesitate to come to her for advice.

“I’m a very approachable person,” said Bryant.

“A lot of students will ask me questions outside of the clinic.”

The main clinic is located in the health unit on Ellis Street in downtown Kelowna, but there is also one on campus in the University Centre, where Bryant is busy helping students in need.

One of the main areas of concern is sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the centre, which is open to all students, not only provides condoms, but instructions on how to properly use them. “I do a lot of awareness,” said Bryant, who has set up seminars in campus residences to educate people about sex.

“The community stuff is a blast. I like the education portion of it.”

She is a firm believer in providing students with affordable birth control.

Bryant is a strong proponent of the need for more sex education—it is what her master’s thesis is on—especially after discovering how many young people did not know the proper way to put on a condom.

“The positives about sex need more attention too. There are consequences of sex and we need to say that, but we also need to say we recognize why they (students) want to have sex,” she said.

“Sarah is fabulous, she has absolutely no compunction about talking about sexual health—with anyone,” added Robert Whiteley, assistant professor  with the UBCO Faculty of Education.

“Her work truly is worthwhile and, though frequently seen as a taboo subject, her tenacity, willingness and passion to inform anyone of the issues related to sexual health is unwavering.

“Currently she is analyzing middle school sexual health curriculum and, based on analysis of best practices, will be making a series of recommendations to improve sexual health education in schools.”

OPT is open to all men and women regardless of sexual orientation. There are also resources available for pregnant women.

For more information on Options, go to Bryant, who writes a sexual health column in campus paper, The Phoenix, also gets a lot of attention for her blog: If anyone has sex-related questions, but cannot make it to the clinic either on or off campus, Bryant recommends calling 1-800-SEX-SENSE, where they can ask any questions that need answering.