We know that students are sexually active—it's a fact. And so we need to make sure they are equipped with the right tools to make healthy decisions.
I had great sex education in my school in the eleventh grade, but I thought that was sort of late to start introducing young people to resources that they need to make sexually healthy decisions. So I lobbied my school’s administration to start sex education in the ninth grade. After a lot of advocacy work, my school did create an education program for ninth-graders on sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
But it wasn’t enough. I also thought that everyone should have access to contraception. So I turned to Planned Parenthood and picked up condoms, which I distributed to my classmates. People started calling me “Condom Queen.” I was a source of knowledge about sexual health for my peers. Planned Parenthood was really supportive of what I was doing. They gave me the knowledge and the resources to be able to empower myself and also empower other young people.
When I got to my college campus, I started a chapter of Students for Choice, which is part of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action network. I was still passionate about condom distribution, and I thought it would be helpful to have condoms available in the vending machines in residential halls —that way, students could get condoms 24/7. The university offered only one certain type of condom, which was a great start, but students wanted more of a variety—for example, some students wanted latex-free condoms, some wanted female condoms, and so on. After speaking with the administration and the residential hall advisors, we were able to increase the variety of what was available.
We know that students are sexually active — it’s a fact. And so we need to make sure they are equipped with the right tools to make healthy decisions.
I also organized a collegiate abortion speak-out on my campus. Anyone who has had an abortion was allowed to just get up and tell their story. We gave people the space and support to speak their stories honestly and openly. I made sure that the event was open to anyone, and that even people who are not supportive of abortion care would feel welcomed and invited into the space.
A really beautiful thing happened — someone from the anti-women’s health group on campus reached out to me afterward and said that she was glad that we’d had the speak-out. Her reaction shows that everyone should have safe access to abortion, and that it’s really important to be in a society where we feel safe telling our stories.