Sparking Interest in Sexual Health Education

November 29, 2017
Chloe Vassot
student standing near chairs after Commencement program
Tory Sparks '17 celebrating at her graduation from Oberlin College. Photo credit: Courtesy of Tory Sparks

With a degree in anthropology and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, Tory Sparks ’17 is using her Oberlin education to pass on knowledge to future generations about sexual health.

Just a few months after graduating, Tory Sparks ’17 has landed her dream job as a community outreach educator with Planned Parenthood. In her position at the organization’s Washtenaw County location in Michigan, Sparks teaches sexual health in local high schools, runs a peer-education program that trains high schoolers to be informed resources for their classmates, and is a member of an advisory board for Washtenaw County’s sexual health curriculum.

“Plain and simple, I teach the things I learned in college in a simplified way to high schoolers,” says Sparks, who double-majored in gender, sexuality and feminist studies and anthropology. “I owe most of my critical thinking skills and sense of justice and equity to my Oberlin education. I use my major and concepts I learned every single day, from what I learned about feminism and sexuality politics to the state of the country today.”

When Sparks was nearing graduation and looking at employment, Planned Parenthood was at the top of her list. Previous experiences, such as conducting research with gender, sexuality, and feminist studies Director Greggor Mattson that involved interviewing owners of rural gay bars, helped inform her interests. Sparks says the experience was a crash course that she applied when jumping into her work at Planned Parenthood.

“I spent so much time in the classroom learning about society, education, and inequality, but I wasn’t directly on the ground influencing or changing things that were wrong and unjust,” Sparks says. “I no longer feel like I’m on the outside looking in, but I’m really doing that work.”

Sparks intends to apply to graduate school, but for now she plans to stay at Planned Parenthood contributing to the organization’s meaningful work.

“At the end of the day, I teach people about their bodies and how to live their sexuality in ways that are safe, healthy, and consensual. That is really exciting for me.”

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