The average Ohio University student spends his or her days studying for the next ECON 101 exam, meeting with their business cluster group at Alden, working at Court Street Coffee to help pay for textbooks and running on the track at Ping. But Audrey Imes is not your typical college student.
Unlike many students her age, Imes, a senior studying strategic communications with a specialization in women’s and gender studies and a certificate in diversity studies, balances her rigorous E.W. Scripps School of Journalism curriculum with her involvement with Planned Parenthood.
Beginning her sophomore year, Imes joined the Voices For Planned Parenthood (VOX) chapter on campus. Since that time, she’s continued advocating for the organization by serving as VOX President for the last two years and interning at the Planned Parenthood office in Bedford Heights, Ohio, this past summer.
“I went to Planned Parenthood during my freshman year at a time when I really need someone,” Imes said. “When I found out that there were ways to work with them, it just seemed like a natural thing for me to do and my involvement blossomed.”
VOX works to inform the student body about sexual health and safety, as these are “so important to have in a college environment,” Imes said.
“It’s so important for there to be a ‘college voice’ in these issues,” Imes said. “When you’re an adult and focused on your career, you may not have the time you have now to get involved in a cause you believe in.”
Hoping to continue her advocacy with the organization, Imes accepted a media, marketing and communications internship at Planned Parenthood’s Bedford Heights, Ohio office this summer.
“When it came time for me to look for an internship, it was only natural that I’d pick Planned Parenthood,” Imes said. “My position with VOX is what inspired me to pursue the internship and what ultimately got me the position.”
In addition to completing the typical communications-related intern tasks she was assigned, Imes made a decision that would impact her life forever – to be featured in a commercial sharing her personal Planned Parenthood story. Though she was originally told the ad would play during Columbus, Ohio and Cleveland, Ohio local news programs only, Imes’s story ended up going viral and was even picked up by several popular websites, such as Politico, Jezebel, Imgur and Facebook.
VOX treasurer Jess Miller, an Ohio University senior studying magazine journalism with a specialization in political science and certificates in women’s and gender studies, diversity studies and political communications, said Imes’s “unapologetic stance” on accessible health care and reproductive rights for women continues to inspire her.
“I was, and am, so incredibly proud of [Audrey’s] bravery and courage in sharing her personal story,” Miller said. “Many college students talk about wanting to make a difference in the world once they graduate, but Audrey is an example of someone who’s already making a difference.”
Though the ad was difficult at times because Imes hadn’t told many people about her assault, she described the commercial as a “very healing experience.”
“When I think about the freshman year Audrey, I think it would have been really good for her to see the commercial,” Imes said. “I’m very proud to be able to be a survivor who spoke out and feel that it’s given me a name and voice in these issues.”
Miller said her passion for Planned Parenthood’s mission is what makes Imes an inspiring role model.
“Audrey is a natural leader,” Miller said. “She’s a great spokesperson because she’s a prime example of the demographic that Planned Parenthood serves. She’s a great public speaker and gifted communicator, [which allows] her message to resonate with many college-age women.”
Though Imes is a few months away from her college graduation, her involvement with Planned Parenthood won’t stop once she leaves campus. Because of that, she encourages all of her peers to rally for a cause they believe in.
“We can sit there and complain about the issues all we want but if we’re not active and advocating for what we believe in, then how is anything ever going to change?” Imes said. “We are the next generation and future.”
Sara Lowenstein- Senior, Strategic Communication
Ohio University Women’s Center
Student Outreach Coordinator