Three years ago, I braved the treacherous winter roads to interview for an interesting position, one that would avert my plans to move to Washington, D.C. Like most new graduates, my head was filled with grand schemes to apply what I had learned in the classroom in a real world setting. So I sought a position that would allow me to grow my program development & management skills, dive deep into health advocacy, and acquire more knowledge about health policy.


Ashley speaking against the six week abortion ban in 2018

I recall arriving to Preterm for my interview a bit nervous. I had never been inside of an abortion clinic and wasn’t sure what to expect. Much to my delight the interior of the clinic resembled a well planned spa. There was tons of natural sunlight, plants, and a color scheme which combined to create an extremely welcoming vibe. I was escorted to a conference room and greeted by four smiling faces, each representing the organizational partners which support the Patients to Advocates fellowship. More important than their bright cheery faces, situated near the empty seat reserved for interviewees was a platter of donuts worthy of their own Instagram influencer following. I felt at home, and after I selected a glazed donut with sprinkles what followed was the most informational, natural interview I had completed during my job hunting season. About two weeks went by before an offer was extended and I gladly accepted.


The first Patients to Advocates cohort, on NARAL’s The Morning After

It’s been an eventful three years. We have graduated two cohorts and are nearing the end of our third year of programming, in which fellows are using the skills they developed during their fellowship year to create a pro-choice capstone project. The program is also undergoing evaluation as the curriculum is being finalized and developed into a guidebook for future iterations of PTA.

The past three years have been full of abortion storytelling, media interactions, lobby days, rallies, panel discussions, bus trips to D.C., canvassing, and stigma busting. Each participating fellow has left the program with a comprehensive knowledge of the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. I’ve watched participants transition from never sharing their abortion story to doing so on a national platform. It has truly been amazing to witness their bravery and enthusiasm. They are each so admirable.


The second Patients to Advocates cohort, on NARAL’s The Morning After

As for me, I’ve gained the initial skills I sought in a job and so much more. In addition to managing the program I’ve been able to present PTA at conferences, improve my public speaking skills, and nestle into a community of seasoned activists and leaders who graciously extend mentorship and camaraderie. I’ve transitioned from a contract employee to full time at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. A millennial with health insurance, an office of my own (with a window) and a job they enjoy, what a rare occurrence!

It’s been an amazing three years, and I excitedly await to see how year four unfolds.

Until next time,

Ashley

Ashley Underwood
Patients to Advocates Coordinator

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