Accompanying Young People with Teen STAR

by Deacon Santiago Molina, MS
Winter 2024

My wife, Laurie, and I learned about NFP during marriage prep. As a biologist, I fell in love with it almost immediately. The more we charted, the more I could verify the truth behind it, since the chart reflected the science. I felt called to teaching it, and I have been teaching NFP since 1989. To my great disappointment, however, most of the couples only attend the introductory session. While the interaction is usually very cordial, the majority don’t return for follow ups.

Early on, I realized the role of the impact of our contraceptive culture on our young adults. What could we do about this? My first thought was that we need a better option for our young people. We need a return to a Catholic culture (at least within our means), and the only way to do that is to reach the younger generation before marriage prep.

Sue Ek, former Executive Director of BOMA-USA, shared with me that there was a program called Teen STAR, run by Sr. Hanna Klaus, M.D., which might be the solution I was seeking. I reached out to Sr. Hanna, but my schedule, and perhaps fear at such a daunting task, prevented me from pursuing it further. It took me almost a decade, but eventually, the Lord’s nudges won, and I attended a Teen STAR workshop given by Dr. Pilar Vigil in Brazil in 2015. It was life-changing. In 2018, Sr. Hanna, then 90, asked me to become the Interim Executive Director of Teen STAR USA. I have been trying to fill her shoes ever since, with many ups and downs along the way.

The Teen STAR curriculum promotes self-discovery, using a Socratic method, to assist youth (middle school and up) to discover who they truly are. They are the STAR, they are the protagonist of the story. The curriculum includes age-appropriate anatomy and physiology, sex differentiation, human development, hormones, brain development, decision-making, what is true love, friendship and dating, body language, and more. Throughout the curriculum, which averages 18 meetings, girls learn to chart their fertility and emotions. The initial lessons are based on concrete concepts, progressing to more abstract concepts as the lessons progress. They learn how to make better, more mature decisions, to appreciate what has been given them (including their gender), and to embrace who they are as daughters of God.

When girls begin to understand, experience, and appreciate the beauty of how their bodies work, and their complementarity with the opposite sex, it affirms their identity as young women. The same happens with boys as they chart their daily emotions and learn about the girls’ physiology by charting “sample cycles”, helping them better appreciate and understand what girls go through.

Our culture has moved beyond a contraceptive mentality, “progressing” to defining gender as fluid, and a choice. Teen STAR presents an excellent, grounding experience so needed by our youth living in this environment. It does not dictate to young people how and what to believe, but rather allows them to discover and experience the truth for themselves. Just as NFP charting “verified” the science for me, I believe that young people today can truly verify who they are through the experience of learning to listen to their bodies “speaking” to them. This is especially true at this point in their lives when their bodies are going through dramatic changes, which can lead to great confusion when unaccompanied.

Our youth are facing a great challenge. We owe it to them to make the effort to accompany them. Let us do this with the respect and dignity that is due to them, with the patience and perseverance that is required, and with the grace that God promises He will provide. 

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About The Author

Deacon Santiago Molina, MS
Deacon Santiago Molina, MS, Executive Director of Teen STAR, and Teacher/Trainer of the Billings Method, is a Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Tallahassee Community College, and a permanent Deacon for the Diocvese of Pensacola-Tallahassee
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