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Jannett Campos:  Inspiring Students to Better Lives

Teaching sex education to children is never an easy thing to do. Doing it in a place like Hartford, where the birthrate to teenagers is almost twice the national average and more than double the rate for the rest of Connecticut, is even more daunting. But CCSU student Jannett Campos met the challenge head-on.

Campos is the author of Tell Them the Truth, a play about the consequences that can result from teen pregnancy and the lack of communication between parents and children when it comes to talking about sex. While a CCSU senior, she was inspired to write the play during her internships at the Parisky Group and the Hartford Action Plan, where teen pregnancy i

ssues are addressed. As an intern, Campos was asked how she would send a message to parents about explaining sex to their children. She decided she would write a play.

Campos, who was raised in Hartford, saw firsthand what teen pregnancy could do to young people. She witnessed friends getting pregnant while in middle and high school and the struggle they went through as young single mothers. This became her play’s background. “Basically, I wrote the play through life experience,” noted Campos. “It was easy to write because it is written in street language and Spanish, the language I speak at home.” The half-hour play has an appeal to children since it was written in a way they could understand.

The play focuses on two dysfunctional and disadvantaged families, with many of their problems driven in large part by the mothers’ early teen pregnancies.  The cycle appears to be on the verge of continuing as one of the mothers’ daughters becomes sexually active. Campos resolves the play’s central dilemma by having the mothers, who were childhood friends, come together to learn how to communicate with their children about the consequences of early sexual activity.

Cast members were first-time actors Campos knew from Mi Casa, a youth program she had worked for as a program coordinator. “They were close to me, and a lot of them kept in touch. They were interested in the play and in performing in it,” noted Campos. After the cast was set, she booked time at the Pope Park Recreation Center for rehearsal. “Every time we rehearsed, there was something new to be revised,” said Campos. “I had no experience with a play except for one in middle school.”

The success of the play inspired Campos’ idea to set up a youth program in the future. The program she envisions would provide a place where kids could rehearse and perform plays. Mentors would help them resolve difficulties they encountered. “It would be a place to find their talent,” she said. “I want to start with students who never thought about going to college and living a better life for themselves.”

Campos herself can relate. While at Hartford High School, her grades were not up to par, and she frequently got in trouble. She worked odd jobs, and she always wanted a better one than she had. But wherever she looked she was asked if she had a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Not knowing what they were, Campos realized she had to concentrate on her studies and work hard to graduate from high school so she could improve her situation.

Working with a guidance counselor, Campos discovered a new world. She learned about financial aid and applied to Manchester Community College. After two successful years there, she transferred to CCSU to finish her college education.

While at the University, Campos has majored in criminology, an interest, she says, that has been motivated by her environmental experiences. “I grew up around people involved in gangs and dealing drugs,” said Campos. “I didn’t get caught up in that because I wanted to work and improve myself by getting a better job. I didn’t want to live life the way others were.”

Campos credits CCSU for teaching her the skills required for success. “I learned about diversity and improved my writing skills,” Campos said. “I always believed I wasn’t a good writer. However, when I took a second class with Dr. Stephen Cox, I improved my skills a lot.  I talked to him about my goal to set up a youth program, and he listened.”

After concluding her education at CCSU, Campos hopes to share with others the knowledge that there is a better life out there, she says, and that it requires hard work and determination. Campos would know. She learned first-hand.

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