When I tell Whitman students that I work with Planned Parenthood, the primary question asked is ‘wait, there is a Planned Parenthood here?’ And yes, there is. I have known for a longtime about the ‘Whitman bubble’ but never realized how enveloped I was in this eclipsed and incomplete experience of Walla Walla until I got outside of it. My time with Planned Parenthood has given me a chance to finally engage with the community that I have lived in for three years but never tried to become part of.
This year Planned Parenthood has re-established itself as an educational presence in Walla Walla, and I am thrilled to be part of this process thanks to the Whitman Community Fellowship. My supervisor, Taylor Wolf, and I have spent this year working hard to build partnerships and provide quality education and outreach to teens and young adults. Some exciting relationships we have built over the course of this year include the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC), the YMCA, the YWCA, and Walla Walla Community College. These newly fostered relationships are the beginning of an initiative to bring comprehensive sex education to the Walla Walla community through partnerships and community building.
Throughout the duration of this year, my main role has been to work with both the JJC and the Walla Walla Community College. The opportunity to work within both of these communities has enriched my experience as a Community Fellow. Working at the JJC has given me the opportunity to work with teens to foster change in communities, which is something I am passionate about. There is this common belief that teens are apathetic, and this belief is particularly salient for at-risk teens, and this experience at the JJC has further reaffirmed how erroneous the stereotype is. At the JJC, Taylor and I met weekly with two different groups of teens. In these meetings, teenagers engage in thoughtful discussions around sexuality and sexual health. Topics include consent, STDs/STIs, birth control/sexual protection, anatomy, health relationships, sexuality, and abuse. The teens at the JJC, while at times a little uncomfortable, approach all of these subjects with maturity and intrigue. It is having these kinds of educational conversations within communities, particularly with teens, that creates positive. I am thankful that this fellowship with Planned Parenthood led to the partnership with the JJC because it has allowed for the continuation of important conversations around sexuality and sexual health with a significant and often wrongly overlook part of the collective Walla Walla community.
In addition to the JJC, part of my fellowship has been to collaborate with the Walla Walla Community College to host events at their campus. In the beginning of April, Planned Parenthood and the Associated Student Body at the Community College partnered together to host an all day event titled Safe is Sexy – starting with an all morning tabling carnival and culminating with a screening of The Hunting Ground that night. The overarching purpose of this event was to engage students in conversations about consent and healthy relationships and to promote Get Yourself Tested/Talking, which is Planned Parenthood’s April campaign to encourage sexually active individuals to get tested for STIs/STDs.
The event was incredibly successful and a great way to engage the community in a conversation about sexual health. My favorite booth was the kisses for consent booth, in which a participant had to say how they would ask for consent for a kiss and would then receive a chocolate kiss for asking. This particular booth sparked productive conversations about verbal consent and the importance of mutual and ongoing consent between individuals. Fun and successful events like this highlights the strength of collaboration between communities, and how this form of collaboration can bring about change and conversations in ways unachievable without community partnership.
This experience as a Whitman Community Fellow for Planned Parenthood has helped me gain a better appreciation for collaboration and community building. Before this internship, I had always seen the value of collaboration but now I see the necessity of it. Collaboration is a catalyst for change and without it progression would be all too slow. Going forward with any new initiatives I take one, I will focus more intently on engaging collective voices to create change. This experience has not only given me the opportunity to get out into the community but I now fully appreciate the value of getting out into the community.