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.”

You may also like…

Jane Sedlak ’19 Studies the Chemistry of Wildfire Smoke

April 20, 2022

Jane Sedlak graduated from Oberlin College in 2019 with a degree in chemistry and was named the winner of Oberlin’s Nexial Prize. Given to a student who demonstrates academic excellence and an interest in cultural study, the Nexial Prize comes with a $50,000 award, which afforded Sedlak the opportunity following graduation to study art conservation at the Louvre in Paris. She is currently a graduate student at University of California San Diego.
Head shot of Jane Sedlak

The Pursuit of Research and Understanding How the Brain Works

March 15, 2022

David Shostak’20, a native of San Francisco, played four years on the varsity soccer team and graduated with a major in biology, a concentration in cognitive science, and a minor in environmental science. For the past two years, he has worked at a neurobiology lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In fall 2022, Shostak will begin working toward a PhD in neuroscience at the University of California San Francisco. Read more about Shostak in this After Oberlin Q&A.
Head shot of David Shostak

Director Ry Russo-Young ’03 on Filmmaking, Storytelling, and Nuclear Family

January 6, 2022

On September 26, director Ry Russo-Young ’03 released her three-part documentary film Nuclear Family on HBO Max, which follows her landmark custody case that unfolded in the late 1980s. The film is an intimate look into Russo-Young’s childhood growing up as the younger daughter of two lesbian mothers and a paternity suit that threatened to upend their "nuclear family."
Ry Russo-Young takes a self-portrait in the a mirror