Whether volunteering or getting credit for field work, students want to know that their time and effort is going to an organization where they can make a difference. Vassar students giving their time at Planned Parenthood feel connected to their work.
Working at the Poughkeepsie Health Center branch of Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson, students aid in helping the organization maintain and expand their services.
Deborah Steinberg ’14 is one student who is involved with the organization through field work where she works with the Community & Online Organizer.
During her time with Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson, Steinberg has helped table at colleges where they offer HIV testing, research to help receive grant funding, and spoken with patients about getting health care.
Describing her internship, Steinberg wrote in an emailed statement, “We try to mobilize students on the college campuses in our counties, educate the community about reproductive health issues, and do advocacy work for state and local policies.”
She became involved with Planned Parenthood at the end of last semester when she called the office about field work and she received an internship.
Another student, Zoe Stern ’14, is trying to bring a doula program to Vassar in partnership with The Doula Project of NYC, after she attended training sessions at Wesleyan.
Doulas are trained personnel who assist women through the entire process of childbirth or abortion. The Doula Project works to provide low-income people with free emotional and physical care at any stage of their pregnancy.
Stern hopes to provide abortion doulas to the Poughkeepsie area. These volunteers would provide support to those who choose to go undergo the procedure.
“The women would be asked beforehand if they want to have a doula, someone with them to ask questions with, to ask questions to, just basically to provide support,” described Stern. She later continued, “A lot of the time women are not really supported by their families, or they don’t tell their families they are having an abortion, or they don’t have anyone to talk to, so basically providing support is a way to give them a sort of community.”
According to Stern, training is fairly easy and would occur over the duration of a weekend. She hopes that by partnering with organizations such as CHOICE and ProHealth, she can find enough monetary and student support to bring this program to campus.
Alumna Amanda Moody ’13 is one student who turned her involvement with Planned Parenthood into a career.
Since her junior year, Moody has acted in a variety of positions with the organization, including as an intern for both the Public Affairs and Education sectors, as an escort at Planned Parenthood health centers, and as a volunteer at a number of events and fundraisers.
Last year, she was invited to join the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Young Leaders Advisory. Today, she works as the Community & Online Organizer for Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley.
Said Moody, “I am invested in the reproductive justice movement because I firmly believe that every person should have the right to make their own decisions regarding their body. Every person is entitled to the right to decide if and when to start their family.”
Said Moody, “Planned Parenthood is more than abortion. Over 90 percent of our work actually does not relate to abortion at all, but instead to preventative and treatment efforts for everything from sexually transmitted diseases to cervical and breast cancer screenings.”
Moody is currently training some Vassar students to become Planned Parenthood escorts. Once trained, a person can act as an escort volunteer at any Planned Parenthood in the country.
These workers help guide people to the shelter on dedicated days for abortion procedures. Certified escorts walk with those attending the clinic. Their presence is designed to prevent harassment from protesters.
Stern described the guidelines escorts are given when handling protests. She wrote, “You’re not supposed to engage the protesters, you’re not supposed to talk to them, you’re not supposed to say your full name or anyone’s name around you, because once they find out your name, they can find out everything about you.”
Without the support of these volunteers, this harassment may prevent some from undergoing the procedure at the center. Training involves learning how to deal with customer questions and discussing how to act when volunteering.
Students have many opportunities to make a difference in their community. Working at organizations such as Planned Parenthood allow connections between Vassar students and the Poughkeepsie area.
Wrote Steinberg in an emailed statement, “Many Vassar students are deeply passionate about these issues—fighting for equality, control over our bodies, awareness of and prevention for reproductive health and sexually transmitted illnesses, etc.”
She continued, “In our privileged place at an institution of higher education, we often do not take the time to go out into the community and try to make a difference.”
According to Moody, Mid-Hudson Valley Planned Parenthood is always on the lookout for dedicated volunteers to ease the anxiety that may come with going to the clinic.
Moody said, “If students are interested in becoming involved with Planned Parenthood—as campus organizers, health center escorts, or in another capacity—they are more than welcome to reach out to me at any time. I am frequently on campus tabling or to hold trainings, and would be happy to arrange to meet with them.”