El Camino: A Goal-setting Sexual Health Promotion Program

Research BriefSexual & Reproductive HealthJun 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

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.

New videos from Child Trends showcase the impact of the El Camino curriculum from the perspectives of students, teachers, and researchers. The videos are available in Spanish and English.

Arc 1: Goal Setting

Arc 2: Sexual and Reproductive Health

Arc 3: Healthy Relationships

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

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 ElCamino@childtrends.org.

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

Webinars and Conference Presentations

Blog Posts

Curriculum Adaptation Materials

Peer-Reviewed Publications

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.