Throwback Thursday? My Internship

"Back in the day" when I was in college, in order to graduate I had to do an internship. It had to have something to do with my major (communications) and it had to be at least a semester long.

There were several available, but my number one pick, the only one I interviewed for and the one that I got, was for a "Community Relations Intern."  It was a non-profit and I thought it would look good on my resume.  It was, in my mind, an extremely reputable organization and would show that I was a "responsible adult."   Along with the part time job I had in public relations at my college's theater, it was the only "real" job I would have to put on my resume when I graduated.  (I made money throughout high school and college by babysitting and that didn't seem to be like something that I could populate a "real" resume with.  It was hard work and required a great deal of dedication, so maybe it SHOULD have been on my resume.  Certainly, it should have shown that I was responsible.)

This internship was a good entry into what the working world would be like.  As the "bottom rung" intern I did a lot of "grunt" work.  That means photocopying, filing, organizing etc.  It was what an entry level person might expect in an organization.  It wasn't thrilling, but it was educational.  And as this non-profit was hosting a conference that semester, I learned a lot.

My internship, which I did during the first semester of my senior year, was at Planned Parenthood.

I'll be honest, most of it wasn't all that memorable. It was a job, not a social statement, or at least that's how I viewed it (and how I still do).  The first floor was where women's healthcare portion was and the 2nd floor was offices and administration.  That's where I would go.  I'd park my car (doing my best to parallel park in a section of town where parking spots were hard to come by), go in the front door and make my way upstairs to do whatever was asked of me.  And what was asked of me wasn't all that exciting.

The one thing that does stand out for me and has stayed with me for all these years (30, yikes!) was the AIDs conference that the center was putting together that autumn.  At the time, there were a lot of unknowns about the disease.  In retrospect, most everything about the disease was an unknown. A diagnosis was pretty much a death sentence and treatment was limited.  People were dying and it wasn't pretty.  Going in, I really knew next to nothing.  Coming out, just by looking over material that was being copied and assembled, I learned a great deal.

What shocked me the most was the number of women in the area who were considered at risk.  Not drug users (although that was part of it), but women who had multiple partners. Of course there was the chance of transference via transfusion. (Something that is thankfully rare. Although that made little difference to Ryan White and his family.  If you don't remember Ryan and his struggle, I encourage you to visit Women who could be me. It was obvious to me from that point on that this was not a disease that discriminated, as many had tried to make it.  People needed to be educated and Planned Parenthood was doing just that.

Somewhere, somehow, the words Planned Parenthood seem to have become almost synonymous with abortion.  I'm not sure why as it's not in the organization's mission statement, which reads as follows: "Based on these beliefs, and reflecting the diverse communities within which we operate, the mission of Planned Parenthood is

  •  to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual 
  • to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services
  •  to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality 
  • to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications

Certainly abortion MAY be a PART of that first bullet point, but it is just a small part of what they strive to do.  As for me, I don't think the word or the procedure ever came to my mind during the interview process or during the time that I interned there. When someone says the words Planned Parenthood, education is the first thing that pops into my mind.  Because that's what Planned Parenthood is about as I see it; educating. Specifically educating about things that people DON'T want to talk about and/or don't want to teach.

I didn't spend a lot of time at Planned Parenthood.  When the semester was over, so was "my job."  But the education that I received there has never gone away.  It was the foundation of my work life that continues to this day.  The basic "office skills" that I learned started me on my career path.  It gave me something to put on a resume when I had nothing else. The college I attended had the insight to recognize that internships were vital to carving a path into the business world and realized that education went beyond the classroom.  For that I am grateful.

I am proud that I was an intern at Planned Parenthood.  All these years later, and I am still (and always will be) grateful for the variety of things I learned there; about women's health AND how to work/perform in an office setting.


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