CLACKAMAS, Ore. _ When Carina Gomez Arechiga was 13, her mother hit her with "the talk."
"Out of the nowhere, I was eating, and she's all like, 'You know, have you had sex?'" Gomez Arechiga remembered. "And I was like 'no.' She's like, 'Well, if you have sex it's going to hurt a lot, and it's gonna' bleed, and you're gonna' be miserable.' And I was just like 'okay, that was a really awkward conversation.' "
Today, Gomez is a single mother living in this Portland suburb with her now three-year-old son. She doesn't regret having her child, but said she wishes she'd known more about the facts of life back when she got pregnant, instead of just learning about it from her friends.
"When I was in school I had health," she said. "And they taught me about babies, but they didn't really teach me about like 'sex-sex.' Some people in the school were against talking about it because they didn't want their kids knowing or doing it."
Experts have pinpointed an increased level of sex education as a key reason why the teenage birthrate is declining nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. States with large Hispanic populations saw the greatest declines.
Overall, the birth rate for Oregon teens dropped by 25 percent over a four-year period. And the latest figures indicate an approximate 40 percent decrease in Hispanic teen birth rates in Oregon. The findings are based on birth certificates for 2007 through 2011.
Jessica Duke, the Program Coordinator for Adolescent Sexual Health at the Oregon Public Health Division, sees multiple reasons for this trend in Oregon.
"There's been a lot of new federal funding around teen pregnancy prevention. And working with statewide partners, we've been able to make sure that that federal teen pregnancy prevention funding is largely in the areas where we see the higher teen pregnancy, higher teen birthrates, and higher disparities amongst different groups," Duke said.
The state is looking at ways to strengthen its efforts even further, with a plan that is effective for young people regardless of their socioeconomic class or culture.
Ismael Garcia knows lots of young Latinas in Gomez Arichiga's situation. He teaches sex education classes all throughout the Portland area, with a focus on the Latino community, though a program called OYE, or Opciones Y Educacion (Options and Education).
And the sessions aren't strictly for teenagers.
"Many parents have had zero education, zero dialogue with their family many years ago, but now they're seeing that their children are learning about certain topics at an early age," Garcia said. "And so they want to know why? They want to know how to talk to them. So it's an opportunity they see benefiting them and their family,"
Participation from Latinos in programs like OYE is growing each year in Portland and around the state. Parents want to know what they're kids are learning and how to have productive talks with them.
In Gomez Arichiga's case, her older sister explained sex to her and the risks of being sexually active. Her sister showed her where she could get contraceptives and what resources were available to answer her questions regarding sex.
"She gave me some condoms and the day-after pill. And then from there, I didn't want to do it anymore, but later on I did and used the condoms," she said.
Now Gomez Arichiga is involved with OYE. She wants to inform young Latinas about how to be sexually responsible.
"There was so much stuff that I didn't know that I know now and I wish I knew back then. You know, because maybe it would've been so totally different," she said.
This summer, OYE will continue to host workshops throughout Portland. The organization plans to expand its programs throughout the state.
This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.