El Camino: A Goal-setting Sexual Health Promotion Program

Publication Date:

June 16, 2021

Child Trends developed El Camino, a sexual health promotion program for Latino adolescents that focuses on the attainment of participants’ personal goals. The program is implemented with young people in schools and communities—especially those with large Latino populations.

El Camino is available both in English and in Spanish. The curriculum is available for download. Materials include:

Front Matter: Key Background Information for Implementing El Camino
Texto Preliminar: Información clave para implementar El Camino (Español)

El Camino Curriculum
Curriculo de El Camino (Español)

Student Workbook
Cuaderno de Trabajo del Estudiante (Español)

Front Matter E-Learning Overview Video

This training webinar introduces key concepts of the El Camino program and will prepare participants for future training and implementation.

Spanish version

What is El Camino?

El Camino is a goal-setting sexual health promotion curriculum targeted toward Latino youth. It consists of eleven 45-minute lessons divided into three sections that encourage youth to (1) set goals, (2) make informed sexual and reproductive health choices, and (3) have healthy relationships. Participating youth are asked to set a long-term goal and then consider steps to accomplish this goal. Youth learn about contraceptive methods and about how these methods could align with their goals. They also participate in interactive activities that encourage them to identify their viewpoints and discuss why they feel the way they do, practice assertive communication, learn about consent, and identify healthy relationships.

Throughout the program, participating teens read and discuss a series of novelas (or stories) about other teens in relatable situations, which help them think through issues around goal setting, reproductive health, and healthy relationships. El Camino’s focus on the needs and cultural norms of Latino youth and their families helps them set academic and career goals. Throughout, El Camino strives to engage parents to obtain their support for further education and delayed family formation.

The overall goal of the El Camino curriculum is to provide tools for high school-age youth to make decisions about their sexual health and promote youth academic and career goal setting. El Camino aims to change three key student behaviors that have a direct effect on its goal: 1) Develop a plan to achieve positive life goals, 2) delay or abstain from sex, and 3) consistently and correctly use effective contraception and condoms, if sexually active.

Arc 1: Goal Setting

Arc 1, Goal Setting, uses the imagery of a road (El Camino) to connect adolescents’ long-term goals with specific steps they can take to achieve those goals. Students themselves—without input from adults in their lives—set their goals and determine the steps they need to take to achieve those goals. The students think through the benefits of completing their education.

The Arc 1 handout, the El Camino map, introduces the STAR model (State your goal, Think about the steps, Assert your camino, and Reach your goal). The map guides young people through mapping out the steps needed to reach a goal by the time they are 25 years old while simultaneously recognizing potential “road trips” that could help or hinder them from reaching their goal. This handout can be found in the Student Workbook.

Arc 2: Sexual and Reproductive Health

Arc 2, Sexual and Reproductive Health, works to change young people’s knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behaviors regarding reproductive biology, and to teach them effective methods of contraception—all necessary steps for youth to make informed decisions on ways to protect and reach their goals.

The Arc 2 handout illustrates how long each contraceptive method is effective, and how various methods align with young people’s goals. This handout can be found in the Student Workbook.

Arc 3: Healthy Relationships

Arc 3, Healthy Relationships, aims to help youth develop assertive communication skills to protect their progress toward their goals, accurately and effectively communicate their limits with partners, and enjoy healthy relationships.

The Arc 3 handout illustrates what constitutes consent. This fosters a discussion about why, or why not, different scenarios constitute consent. This handout can be found in the Student Workbook.

Development and Pilot Testing

From 2015 to 2018, with a grant from The JPB Foundation, Child Trends developed and tested El Camino in 16 classrooms across seven locations in six cities (Washington, DC; East Chicago, IN; Tacoma, WA; Baltimore, MD; Los Angeles, CA; and Philadelphia, PA), with more than 300 students. We worked with partner schools and organizations to implement El Camino with diverse groups of students in both English and Spanish; during and after school; and with classroom teachers, AmeriCorps volunteers, and Communities in Schools staff.

Read more

The El Camino curriculum was first published in 2019 after five rounds of revision. The curriculum was developed in consultation with curriculum developers and sexual and reproductive health experts (from ETR, SHIFT NC, YouthBuild, and Healthy Teen Network), and draws on observations, student focus groups and surveys, and facilitator feedback. Child Trends incorporated youth voices and feedback throughout development of the El Camino curriculum to ensure that it is age-appropriate and user-centered. Preliminary research on El Camino’s implementation suggests that youth responded well to the curriculum and that participation led to changes in their attitudes and knowledge. For example, 91 percent of students reported that El Camino had made them less likely to have sex, more likely to use contraception, or more likely to use a condom. Completion of the curriculum increased students’ contraceptive knowledge and led participants to feel more comfortable talking about sex and consent with their partners.

Re-release of the El Camino Curriculum

In 2020, Child Trends was awarded a three-year grant from the Office of Population Affairs to implement and rigorously evaluate El Camino. As part of this grant, Child Trends conducted a review of all project-related materials to ensure that materials are medically accurate, age-appropriate, trauma-informed, and user-centered. Based on feedback from trauma and medical experts, Child Trends revised materials to strengthen trauma-informed approaches. These revisions include the following:

  • Changed how we refer to the program from “teen pregnancy prevention” to “sexual health promotion” to better reflect that the program focuses on setting goals, increasing knowledge and motivation to make informed sexual and reproductive health decisions, and enjoying healthy relationships
  • Added language and strategies to curriculum instructions on how to present sensitive information, such as sex, gender, consent, relationships, and verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Added norms around dealing with trauma responses, including content and trigger warnings for lessons and individual activities and discussions around the difference between feeling uncomfortable talking about a topic versus having a trauma reaction
  • Added acknowledgement that youth may have been forced or coerced into having sex in discussions around making decisions about having sex, and that the abuse is never the fault of the person being abused/raped
  • Added guidance for facilitators on discussing sexual identity and sexual orientation in an affirming way
  • Removed gendered language wherever possible, added information about how to prevent STIs for people who may not engage in penile-vaginal sexual intercourse, and provided additional resources and tips for facilitators on how to create more inclusive classrooms

Virtual adaptation

In response to the COVID-19 public health pandemic, Child Trends also adapted the curriculum and training guides to allow them to be implemented virtually. The updated curriculum incorporates call-out boxes with instructions on how to adapt each activity for a virtual setting, instructional demonstration videos that can be used in place of in-person demonstrations, and student workbook materials that have been converted into fillable PDF documents. The curriculum also includes instructions, resources, strategies, and tips for virtual facilitation and implementation within each lesson, as well as front matter materials for facilitators. All of these updates help ensure that El Camino can be implemented with high quality and fidelity in a virtual setting.

If you would like to learn more about this project or to receive supplemental curriculum materials, please contact us at [email protected].

Related Resources

Past publications and related resources described the El Camino curriculum as a teen pregnancy prevention program. However, we now refer to El Camino as a sexual health promotion program (as mentioned in the re-release of the curriculum). This phrasing more accurately describes El Camino’s goals of providing tools for high school-age youth to set their own goals, feel empowered to make their own decisions about their sexual health, and enjoy healthy relationships by learning about communication and consent. Current and future publications will use this terminology.

Briefs and Reports

El Camino: A Goal-setting Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

This brief describes El Camino, its structure and format, and preliminary results from a pilot testing of the program in seven schools and community-based organizations across six cities.

Reducing Teen Childbearing Among Latinos: An Innovative Anti-Poverty Strategy

An interdisciplinary team of social scientists at Child Trends used multiple research methods to identify promising approaches to reduce early childbearing among Latino adolescents. This work included a review of research studies, a scan of intervention programs, focus groups with adolescents, interviews with parents and with program designers and program staff, and analyses of national databases. In this research brief, we synthesize the results across these various research methods to identify major findings and implications for teen pregnancy prevention efforts for Latinos.

Preventing Teen Pregnancy Among Latinos: Recommendations from Research, Evaluation, and Practitioner Experience

This brief highlights ways that adolescents’ individual attitudes and beliefs—as well as those of their family and parents, peers, and romantic partners—can help or hinder their desires to avoid teen pregnancy. Based on the findings outlined in this brief, Child Trends developed eight key recommendations for consideration in future intervention efforts.

Reducing Teen Childbearing among Latinos: An Innovative Anti-Poverty Strategy (PDF)

For this report, Child Trends researchers synthesized evidence from research studies, trend data, and evaluations of intervention programs to reduce teen childbearing among Latinos in the United States. We also conducted qualitative interviews with parents, teens, and program designers and practitioners. The findings from each of these endeavors are described in the chapters of the report.

Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex: Communication and Teen Pregnancy Prevention within Hispanic Families

This Research Brief is one in a series developed by Child Trends to explore issues related to Latino teen pregnancy and childbearing and to consider promising approaches for teen pregnancy prevention programs for this population.

When Sex and Dating are the Same: Latinos’ Attitudes on Teen Parenthood and Contraception

This research brief reports on what Child Trends learned through recent focus groups and interviews with Latino teens and parents about their values, ideals, and attitudes about teen parenthood, teen dating and sex, and the use of birth control by teens. It discusses the potential implications of these values, ideals, and attitudes for teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Tip Sheet: How to Implement a Goal-Setting Sexual Health Promotion Curriculum in a Virtual Setting

While Child Trends previously published lessons learned from adapting the program and implementing it virtually, this tip sheet presents those lessons as actionable recommendations in an easy-to-use table format to allow program facilitators and implementation staff to easily access information while implementing a sexual health promotion curriculum.

Webinars and Conference Presentations

El Camino: A Road to Education and Teen Pregnancy Prevention

This webinar describes the El Camino program’s background, focus, structure, and findings, and incorporates interactive virtual demonstrations of some of its activities. Joining the presenters is Guadalupe Martinez, a CIS site coordinator who recently facilitated El Camino with a group of students in Los Angeles.

Reducing Teen Childbearing Among Latinos: An Innovative Anti-Poverty Curriculum

This poster was presented at Family & Youth Services Bureau’s 2018 Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Conference, May 30–June 1, 2018, and was authored by Child Trends staff. The poster describes the El Camino program’s background, formative research and theory of change, curriculum structure and activities, implementation sites, and findings from pre- and post-test surveys and focus groups with participants.

Blog Posts

Lessons for Developing Effective Program Curricula that Serve Youth

This resource presents four key takeaways from the process of developing El Camino—which included reviews of research literature, analyses of nationally representative datasets, and interviews and focus groups with Latino parents and youth and with program developers and implementers—that can be applied to other youth-serving programs.

El Camino, a Goal-setting Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, Finds Promising Results

This resource provides an overview of the El Camino curriculum and early data from the pilot test and plans to scale up El Camino with new schools and classrooms.

An Evidence-Based Approach to Reducing Teen Pregnancy among Latinos

This blog highlights the need for high-quality teen pregnancy prevention programs in the United States, particularly for Latino youth. It introduces two program models that are testing this more holistic approach to teen pregnancy prevention, including Child Trends’ El Camino program.

Teenage Childbearing among Latinos: Understanding Diverse Experiences

This blog describes teen birth rates among Hispanic adolescents by nativity status, highlighting the different family and relationship contexts of Hispanic adolescent girls that factor into Hispanic teen birth rates, and describes Child Trends’ review of teen pregnancy prevention programs that target or include Hispanics.

Curriculum Adaptation Materials

Adapting an In-Person Sexual Health Program for a Virtual Setting

This brief summarizes the process for and lessons learned from virtually implementing El Camino. The resource provides recommendations for adapting in-person programs for remote delivery, including school-based health and sexual health programs. These recommendations are the result of research conducted as programs shifted from in-person to virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

El Camino Adaptation Guide

The El Camino Adaptation Guide provides facilitators and curriculum implementers with the tools and resources to guide them in making appropriate adaptations to El Camino, an adolescent sexual health promotion curriculum, while maintaining program fidelity. Many program facilitators adapt curricula to better serve their youth populations, and this guide will help them make adaptations in line with curriculum core components that will not jeopardize potential benefits to youth.

Partners and Collaborators

The curriculum development and field testing was funded by The JPB Foundation. Child Trends staff—Kristin Anderson Moore, Jennifer Manlove, Jenita Parekh, Bianca Faccio, Samuel Beckwith, and Lina Guzman—developed the curriculum in partnership with external advisors and curriculum writers Lori Rolleri and Linda Kalje.

Child Trends is currently conducting a multi-year evaluation of El Camino in Montgomery County, MD, in partnership with Identity, Inc. and the University of Maryland with funding from the Office of Population Affairs.