South Florida Hospital News
Friday February 28, 2020

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August 2019 - Volume 16 - Issue 2




Empowering Teens to Tackle Health Education

In 2009, the Berrin sisters started a not-for-profit organization to help South Florida high school students redefine what it means to be “HIP”. The Health Information Project (HIP) is changing high-school health education by empowering students to be the teachers.

Health education is crucial for everyone, but especially high school students who are experiencing the last developmental milestones before becoming adults. Open communication about the physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes that 14-18 year olds experience is fundamental.
Society’s lack of education and open discussion on critical health issues such as suicide, anxiety, obesity, abuse and depression creates a mental health stigma which can lead to discrimination, reluctance towards treatment or lack of understanding. Over 10 years ago, we realized this was a missing link in health education, and knew we had to take action. With that in mind, The Health Information Project (HIP) was born. We work tirelessly every day to empower teens to tackle the health crises of their generation by recruiting and training them to be peer educators at their own schools. In this environment, students are more comfortable opening up about personal issues and discussing with   peers in a judgment-free zone.
HIP currently trains 1,700 11th and 12th graders to serve as peer health educators, teaching more than 34,000 ninth graders each year. Our partnership with 58 schools, both public and independent private schools, has revolutionized health education in Miami-Dade County, and we hope to continue to grow throughout the state - and nation.
To become a HIP educator, juniors and seniors must participate in an extensive interview process. Once selected, they attend trainings throughout the year on public speaking, classroom management and how to address difficult conversations in a frank, non-judgmental way. Students are the ones leading bi-monthly discussions, providing their peers with practical health information, facilitating discussions about critical health topics and connecting other students to vital health resources at their schools and in their communities.
Risa Berrin, Founder & Executive Director of HIP
Throughout my time at University of Miami School of Law, I taught health education to female juveniles who were incarcerated and worked as a court-appointed special advocate for children who are mistreated, abandoned and neglected. The exposure to abuse, drugs and mental health raised my awareness for the issues in our community. From that point on, I made it my goal to provide people with reliable information and resources to deal with serious issues.
Several years after Risa founded HIP, her sister Valerie joined as Director of Operations to champion a cause both sisters are passionate about:
Having worked in the New York City public school system, while studying at Barnard College – Columbia University, I was aware of the many physical and emotional health needs of the students and the lack of resources in their schools and communities. This experience left no doubt in my mind that I would go on to join my sister in her efforts to make health education more approachable.
HIP is determined to ensure every student in the US is healthy - both physically and emotionally. Our goal is to create high school campuses that are safe, supportive and inclusive.

To learn more, please visit

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