The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Apoorva Dixit '17

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Student Intern: Apoorva Dixit '17

Internship Organization:
A Step Ahead Foundation – Memphis, TN

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
A Juvenile Court Magistrate founded A Step Ahead Foundation (ASAF) in Memphis when she realized that unintended pregnancy was ground zero for the vast majority of cases she saw before her at Juvenile Court. After researching the issue, she found that many women did not have access to or knowledge of the most effective methods of birth control: long acting, reversible contraception (LARC). She founded ASAF to help women get ahead in life by encouraging them to plan their lives, plan their families, and plan their babies. ASAF's goal is not only to provide free LARCs for all of Tennessee but also to create a culture of the birth control so that when girls and women decide to become sexually active, they are equipped with the knowledge they require to still be in control of their lives.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My role is to support any staff member in need of assistance. I assisted the Marketing Coordinator in organizing ASAF's annual silent auction. The Outreach team conducts events at local community centers, churches, and other places where they provide a thorough sex ed class along with information about LARCs and ASAF. I helped reorganize the session and created outreach materials to more effectively educate teenage girls.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I started my internship in this progressive women's health non-profit painfully ignorant about long-acting, reversible contraception. I knew there were three kinds, and that was about it. So on the first day, as I am familiarizing myself with my new office and making small talk with my new co-workers, I let slip just how little knew about LARCs. In response, one of my co-workers--part of the outreach staff--asks, "Are you a virgin?" While the question stunned me initially, it instantly set the tone for straightforward, open conversation. Sex should not regarded as a taboo topic, but as a natural process that both girls and boys need to be informed and educated about. Although I will say in warning that questioning someone’s virginity as an ice-breaker is a skill that very few people have, but that co-worker is now one of my favorite people here.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
One of my most rewarding parts of the internship has just been exposure to ASAF’s great staff and learning about the issues that they are so passionate about. In an office that I assumed to be liberal, we have people that fall on all parts of the spectrum. If ever I have a question about anything from the woman’s anatomy to public policy issues, there is someone to provide the liberal, moderate, and conservative opinions. The recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision sparked a great debate in the office while the question of when life begins prompted a though-provoking conversation.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Working for a non-profit that advocates for birth control in a very conservative part of the country has been quite an experience. While some have approached me with an open mind ready for a productive conversation, others have greeted me in more unfriendly ways. Interning here has given me great experience in listening to both sides. While it is easy to be a young liberal that simply shuts out anything conservative, I’ve learned that I need to understand the reasoning behind every side before I can understand an issue or educate others. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss abortion with people whom I am never going to agree with but with people whom I now respect because I understand that just as much thought has gone behind their opinion as my own.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to have helped at least one girl take control of her life by preventing an unplanned pregnancy, whether it was by explaining to a 13-year-old the steps she’ll need to take to become a lawyer or by helping to set up affiliate organizations that will provide free LARCs across the state.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
There are three kinds of long-acting, reversible contraception, or LARCs: ParaGard IUD, Mirena IUD, and Nexplanon implant. The Nexplanon implant is inserted in a female’s arm, it lasts 3 years, and it delivers doses of the same hormone that the pill does automatically. The Mirena IUD (intra-uterine device) is inserted in a female’s uterus, it lasts 5 years, and it delivers a localized dose of hormones automatically. The ParaGard IUD is also an intra-uterine device, it lasts 10 years, and it uses copper as a natural spermicide. LARCs have a failure rate of 3%, and your insurance will pay for them, unless you work for Hobby Lobby, but then ASAF’s got you covered in Memphis.



The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences