I gave lube to a state senator and other amazing things that happened these past 12 months
June 5, 2019 by Olivia Harris
It has been a year since I joined Speak About It as the Executive Director. While I can no longer use "It's my first year on the job!" as an excuse, these past 365 days have been full of victories, lessons learned, relationships built, and hours and hours spent speaking about sex and consent.
The day I started this job, I stuck a post-it note to my desk to remind me of a piece of advice that Neil Gaiman gave to one of my favorite writers, Jenny Lawson: “Pretend you’re good at it.”
Over the last year, I've learned I am actually pretty good at it. And, I haven't had to pretend all that much, because the Speak About it staff, board, and educators are pretty darn great too. I feel so lucky to have joined a healthy organization and I am so energized by all that we have accomplished together since last June.
This year, Speak About It trained 26 Educators who toured our flagship show to 60 colleges and 12 high schools. We facilitated additional programs with 3 community centers, and we performed a free community show in my hometown of Philadelphia! This brings us to a whopping total of 102 programs and performances reaching over 43,000 students this year alone! That number doesn’t even capture the over one hundred people in Portland who enjoyed a delicious taste of our brand of consent, pleasure and sex education at Cirque du OH YAY: A Carnival of Consent or danced with us at our Safer Space Dance parties.
On top of all that, I did a lot of learning. Here are a few things I've learned along the way:
- 1) Mountain time is real. So real that sometimes you accidentally call a school precisely when they asked you not to because you did the math very , very wrong.
- 2) If you’re going to freeze on a video chat with your co-workers, make sure you look like you’re listening intently so they don’t notice. And maybe make sure you don't look like this.
- 3) A project isn’t done just because the task is. Processing and evaluating are super important to make sure we close our programs as intentionally as we began.
- 4) If there is a dog in the office, always snap a pic for the gram. Hell, get more than one dog in there. I invited 3 to a recent meeting.
- 5) Strategic planning can be a lot of fun, I promise!
- 6) Our work is so serious and so vital. Talking about sexual assault for 8 hours a day is tough sometimes. But it's good humor that gets me through, and it's Speak About It's tongue-in-cheek style that makes our work so successful.
- 7) Nobody wants to be lectured about sex: they want to have fun, feel involved, and empowered to make choices that work for them.
- 8) People in Portland-and throughout Maine - LOVE Speak About It. Every time I met a Mainer and told them my job, they gushed about our work. Clearly Shane left an amazing legacy for all of us! And that legacy shows: We were invited to the State House, profiled in the Press Herald three times this year, almost every local business we asked donated to our fundraiser, our friends and fans voted us #1 in a national grant competition. The list goes on and so does all the love, of which I am so grateful.
Those are some of my favorite lessons, and here are some of my favorite moments in the last year:
- 1) Talking to 500 student athletes and 50 of their coaches about partying safer at Bentley University.
- 2) Offering lube alongside information about our work to Maine legislators at MANP’s Nonprofit Lobby Day.
- 3) Every time I got to co-facilitate a program with Oronde, but especially the Gender and Technology programs at Deerfield Academy and Governor’s Academy
- 4) The moment when we realized we DOUBLED our Giving Tuesday goal amount!!
- 5) When we performed our first free community show in my hometown of Philly... at the theatre where I used to work! The audience was full of my former coworkers, friends, folks from schools in Philadelphia, and nearby students. Seeing our Educators and staff talking after the show with my husband’s colleagues and connecting with my friends was such a joy, and made me so proud to be building an even bigger Speak About It community.
And finally, I have a lot of folks to thanks:
To the Speak About It Board, you have been remarkable stewards of my transition. You have taught me the value of patience and making sure that we examine big steps from multiple perspectives so that we can all move forward with confidence. As we envision where Speak About It goes next, I get more and more excited for what’s in the works!
To my Speak About It staff and co-workers, Oronde and Catherine. You have taught me so much not just Speak About It, but about inclusive and affirming consent education. Thank you for the hour long video conference deep-dives, where we might not always agree but we are still productive and kind. And thank you from stopping me from Googling “How do the kids say IRL” a favor I truly can never repay.
To our educators. You are really the bread and butter of this operation. You never cease to amaze me with your myriad instagram antics and resilience in the face of long days, flight delays, and emails that end with "thanks for rolling with the punches." I hope that being an educator with us is as cool an opportunity for you, as it is for opportunity for me. I mean, how often do you get almost 30 passionate twenty somethings in a room to talk about sexual assault prevention and consent?
To everyone who welcomed me into their community in Portland (much of which has involved taking me to so many delicious restaurants!), thank you. You've taught me what SAI aims to be: inclusive, welcoming, and fun. I'm so excited to bring more people from new communities into Speak About It fold from New York, San Francisco, my home of Philadelphia, and more.
After this whirlwind journey of a first year, I'm so jazzed to see what the next one holds. I can't wait to debut 2 new programs: one for faculty members and school staff, and an immersive theatre program for students. We just finished editing the script for our show, and we just hired the most diverse team in our history! We are writing more curriculum for educator training to meet the needs we’re seeing on campuses. Plus, we’re starting to think more critically about data collection, equity and representation, and the true impact of our work with students.
In the next year, I hope you'll join us in whatever capacity you can, by donating, attending an event, watching a #hotgoss episode, or following our summer tour on Instagram. However you engage, we hope you keep speaking about it.
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau