B”Shari Robinson”s involvement in AIDGwinnett”s TOGA (Teaching Our Generation About AIDS) Program began with a lesson in love and loss. When Robinson was 11, her aunt succumbed to AIDS, and she saw first hand how information and education could make a difference in the fight against the disease.
As a freshman at Central Gwinnett High School, Robinson learned about the TOGA program and immediately got involved. Being able to impact the decisions her friends and peers make by providing accurate information fueled Robinson”s commitment to the TOGA program.
TOGA, a 12-year-old program at AIDGwinnett, focuses on arming youth with the right information and resources, so they can spread the word on AIDS prevention at a peer-to-peer level. Currently, 24 youth from Gwinnett and surrounding counties work together to get out the message on AIDS prevention.
"Being involved with TOGA has shown me the difference that communicating facts on a friend-to-friend level can make…"
Now a college sophomore, Robinson feels that, "Despite the publicity, youth my age still don”t know or realize that AIDS is a very real health issue. Every one thinks AIDS can”t happen to me," she says. "Through TOGA, I have learned hard core facts and evidence that I can share with my peers that helps them stay safe and make informed decisions."
Teen communication has come a long way from putting up posters in the cafeteria, and Robinson is perfect proof of this fact. She frequently uses her own Facebook and My Space pages to post hot links or messages related to AIDS prevention including specific details about free confidential testing offered at AIDGwinnett”s Duluth offices.
After six years, her friends at TOGA have begun to feel like a second family and that open atmosphere makes a difference. Beyond volunteering, working and attending school, Robinson has aspirations to major in Psychology with an emphasis on family counseling. She acknowledges that her work with TOGA inspired her career choice.
"Being informed is half the battle," Robinson explains. "Being involved with TOGA has shown me the difference that communicating facts on a friend-to-friend level can make. Prevention starts on an individual level."