We asked Laura Parent, an intern on our Prevention team, to reflect on her time with MFP. We were deeply moved by her response and we are honored to share it with you here. Thank you, Laura, and thanks to all of the sexual and reproductive health rock stars out there making the world a kinder, healthier place for all of us! #SexEdForAll
Can you share your name, hometown, school, and graduation date?
Hi! My name is Laura Parent and I’m from Manchester, Maine. I graduated from Maranacook High School in 2018, and now I attend Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and will be finishing my undergraduate degree this June, with a graduation date in November!
How did you first get involved with interning at MFP?
I first began as an intern at MFP in 2019 after my first year at Carleton University. I had a friend who had previously had the position and sexual and reproductive health are subjects I had been interested in since high school because of my personal experiences in health class and accessing sexual health services. I often found myself driving friends to pharmacies and clinics to access sexual health services, and watching others struggle to gain access to birth control and reproductive healthcare. In fact, my first roommate in college recently told me that one of the first things I had asked her was “are you on birth control?” So this has been a passion of mine from the start.
I was a patient at Maine Family Planning before I was an intern, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to play a part in providing comprehensive sexuality education and expanding the offering of sexual health services throughout my community and beyond, so I reached out to Lynette and was offered a job! I’ve been working on and off for Lynette and the Prevention Team ever since.
What has your experience been working with Lynette, Vicki, and now Maddy over the last couple of years?
I have enjoyed every minute of working with Lynette, Vicki and most recently Maddy throughout my internship. All three are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, and have clearly made a significant difference in the lives of Maine educators and young people in Maine. Not only do I learn so much by working with them, they’re also hilarious. It’s nearly impossible to get through a weekly meeting without laughing. Lynette, Vicki, and Maddy are a dream team and they’re the main reason this work is so enjoyable. Having Lynette around means that everything is precise down to the smallest detail, Vicki ensures that everything is done thoroughly and with care, and Maddy always brings innovation and creative solutions to the table. The three of them are always encouraging, open, and receptive to me and my ideas and input even as a young intern with very limited experience. They have empowered me to grow as a student, advocate, and person, and I’m so grateful.
Can you name some things that have surprised you that you’ve learned through this internship? Or that have inspired you to learn more?
One of the main things that has surprised me about this internship has been the reactions of others when I tell them what I do for work. I have received many comments and had eye-opening conversations with others who say “well that’s very political” or those who attempt to debase what MFP does in ways that would not have happened if I had said I was working in any other form of healthcare. To me, these encounters just go to show that what MFP does, and what I am contributing to, is important work, and that there is still much work that needs to be done, which gives me a sense of personal pride in doing something that challenges ingrained beliefs and dogmatism so much so that simply telling others what I do for work elicits those kinds of reactions. It also gives me a sense of awe towards people like Lynette and Vicki who have been doing this type of work for years, fielding questions and taking judgements in stride while continuing to be passionate about what they do. This work is not easy, and can be very discouraging at times, but their tenacity and perseverance inspires me. They’re my heroes!
Do any moments or stories stand out in your memory?
Some of my favorite moments have been interactions with educators and youth. I recently experienced my first time helping Lynette, Vicki, and Maddy host a webinar, and afterwards, one of the educators stayed on the call to rant about how difficult a parent had been recently about her teaching sexual health and specifically sexual orientation and gender identity. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community it was very meaningful and heartening for me to see an educator standing up for their students, and saying “I’m going to teach this,” making it clear that it’s important, despite receiving backlash from parents.
I also just recently hosted a session with Vicki at the MYAN [Maine Youth Action Network] Conference for youth on body positivity, and not only was it incredibly fun to work in partnership with Vicki, the wisdom that the youth who attended the session displayed was outstanding, with one student at the end noting that none of us are alone in wanting change, an idea so full of hope that I will carry it with me wherever I go!
What advice would you give to other students interested in sexual and reproductive health and rights?
My advice to other students would be to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. There will always be those who try to undermine your passions and interests, and tell you that you don’t belong in certain conversations, conferences, classes, or positions of power because of them. Seek out those who are passionate about the same things, people like Lynette, Vicki, and Maddy who can guide you to get where you want to go and empower you to grow. Do not be afraid to challenge power, and know that your work is important when you stand up for others and elevate others’ voices. Remember that you’re never alone in wanting change! We need you out here!
What are your post-graduation plans and/or what is your dream job?
I was accepted into a graduate program at the University of Ottawa for Globalization and International Development, so I will be back in school again in the fall after finishing my final undergraduate courses this summer. My experience in working at Maine Family Planning has been so formative that I was accepted for a prospective thesis on global public health, specifically reproductive health. I hope for sexual health and reproductive justice to be the focus of my career, whether I end up in the nonprofit sector, academia, or in the field. I know I want to continue on this journey that MFP has started me on well into the future.