Change of Plans: How I Went From A Math Major to Sexual Health Advocate

At the end of this semester, my first thoughts about CCPE bring me to the first person who I implemented RESPECT on.

I remember rubbing my hands together, palms sweating. I entered the room, introduced myself with a shy smile and made a joke about the uncomfortable questions I was about to ask about their sexual behaviors. The person smiled, quelling my fears, and slowly began to open up.

That was the first time that I had the privilege of listening to someone else’s story, immersing myself in their reality, and acting as a resource for them to reduce their risks of obtaining HIV. I walked out of that room with a newfound confidence in myself, knowing that this was the right field for me.

This past year, my enthusiasm for promoting healthy sexual practices took root from an experience with an unplanned pregnancy. My work with CCPE captured the essence of everything that could have helped me avoid an unplanned pregnancy. Because of how that experience affected me, I felt deeply motivated to do my part in educating and advocating for safe sexual practices.

And so, I went into every RESPECT session with the hope that I would be able to help someone else avoid repercussions of unsafe sex, such as HIV/AIDS, STDs and pregnancy. It was rewarding, but it was also difficult.

I learned that every person had their own individualized views on their own sexual experiences and their sexual practices, and that no matter what these were, that they deserved all the respect and autonomy that I could give them. I found that people looked at me as an expert, and valued what I had to say to them by really listening to me.

That in its self was so humbling. However, it was also anxiety provoking, because I knew that I needed to measure up to their standards and try my best to be a helpful resource and listener for them in that moment. My training helped me navigate the RESPECT sessions, but the CCPE team was the best support system that I had.

The team at CCPE are phenomenal. I cannot emphasize enough how much their encouragement and spirit influenced me. They supported me in all aspects of my life, and were valuable resources for every type of question I had; random or work related.

Their emphasis of an open, supportive and non-judgmental work environment showed in their everyday communications with me, as well as with every other person they encountered.  I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of their team, and to have learned so much from them this semester. Without their support, I don’t think I would have been able to immerse myself as deeply in their work or get as quality of an introduction into working on a community grant.

By working so intimately with CCPE, I have solidified my interest in community health, and have been able to take an in-depth look inside the work of community grants.

In particular, I’ve learned that drive, passion, and resilience turn an average group of workers into a more productive, impassioned, and resourceful team.

In the future, I hope to find a similar work environment to CCPE. I have also identified that being out in the community is something that I enjoy and would like to do more of in the future. This internship has led me deeper down into the path of community health, and taken me farther away from the expectations that I had for my career path at the beginning of college.

Going forward, I hope to continue to explore the field of community health. My ideas on how to accomplish this involve digging deeper into the literature on community health practices, working with more and different types of at–risk populations, and taking applicable classes at IU.

My work at CCPE has influenced the course work that I will be taking in my last year of college, which largely diverges from my major in mathematics, and instead focuses on public health and psychology.  I am excited about the future, and the leaps and bounds I will hopefully be making next year and the years to come.

Although the fear of graduating looms over my head, my work with CCPE has inspired confidence in my abilities to make an impact.


Ashley Judge is a CCPE intern and junior studying mathematics at Indiana University.

Cover photo credit


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