David Zheng ’15, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

I entered the Planned Parenthood Federation of America national office at around 9 am and met Mr. Tobias Rodriguez ‘11, the alumnus sponsor of the Princeternship, at the door. He took me up to the seventh floor, where he works, and then introduced me to his coworkers and gave me a tour of the other floors in the building. I even got to meet a person on one of the Planned Parenthood advocacy posters! After this informal tour, Tobias presented me with a schedule of events for the day.

At 11 am, I met with Jon Knowles, Director of Sexual Health Information. After he gave me a brief description of his job – he makes pamphlets and fact sheets on a variety of sex-related issues such as sexual health and birth control – we had a nice chat about the history of Planned Parenthood. We discussed the current related political issues, Margaret Sanger’s contribution to birth control, and present day contraceptive methods. When asked what inspired him to work for Planned Parenthood, Jon replied that he saw how uninformed people were about issues regarding sex and he wanted to do something about it. He even knew a girl in the 60’s who threw herself down a flight of stairs in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. I left our conversation with a few pamphlets and fact sheets, what will surely be nice reading for my train ride back to Princeton.

Then Tobias, his coworker Alex, and I enjoyed a nice Chipotle lunch on the High Line. It doesn’t get much better than 70 and sunny in New York City!

When I got back to the office, I went to my 2 pm meeting with Catherine Lozada, a writer and editor in Planned Parenthood’s communications department. She informed me that Planned Parenthood has no public relations department, so communications needs to act as a “legal eagle” in making sure that press releases are in accordance with the organization’s views and the views of the 79 affiliates of Planned Parenthood. During this meeting, I watched Catherine copy edit a blog post for www.womenarewatching.org, the political action site for Planned Parenthood. This specific blog post was about how Virginia governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill into law that forces women to receive ultrasounds when they get abortions, despite him saying that people should be in control of their healthcare. Part of Catherine’s job is making sure blog posts like these get onto the political action website so readers are aware of the pressing Planned Parenthood-related issues.

My last meeting of the day was at 4 pm with Ariel Kaplan, contributions processor of the development department. His floor handles the fundraising aspect of Planned Parenthood, and Ariel keeps the contributions database up to date. In fact, he is even working on a pilot project that aims at database integration across the country with the different Planned Parenthood affiliates to improve efficiency of contributions processing. Ariel and I spent the most of our conversation talking about the Susan G. Komen controversy, in which the organization cut funding for Planned Parenthood. At the end of our chat, he touted the virtue of nonprofit organizations, informing me that before working here he was not political at all. He said he loves working for Planned Parenthood because of the “great health benefits, atmosphere, and people.”

Overall, I had an enriching day working with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and I am very grateful to Tobias for this opportunity (and for the Chipotle). From the genuine kindness of everyone I met to the office penthouse’s fantastic view of New York City, I enjoyed every moment of this Princeternship experience. After having left the Planned Parenthood office, I feel I have gained both greater insight into the workings of a nonprofit organization and a deeper understanding of the all the issues related to the sexual and reproductive healthcare Planned Parenthood provides.