Staff Review by Ms. B
You've probably already heard about this high schooler's unique senior project -- I seem to have been the only person who missed the news story when it first broke. Gaby Rodriguez was an eleventh grader living in an economically-struggling town in Oregon. The daughter of a teen mom, Gaby had grown up watching many of her seven older brothers and sisters (Gaby's mum had her when she was in her 30s) also become teen parents. As the youngest child -- born significantly later in the life of her mother than her siblings had been -- Gaby has a strong bond with her mother. It left her with a drive to make her mother proud ... and to make herself proud, too.
An exceptional student, Gaby had strong opinions about people's abilities to not necessarily follow the path of their parents and to make their own choices instead. (She writes more than once about her determination to "not live down to other people's expectations" of her.) When it comes time for her to pick a senior class project, Gaby knows she wants to do something that will help the teens of her high school -- and maybe of her entire community -- realize that they can make their own choices, live their own lives, and be who and what they want to be. That they don't have to live down to people's expectations of them.
So for her senior class project, Gaby decides to fake a pregnancy. Her own.
It's a daring, daunting task to take on, isn't it? After getting approval from her school principal and superintendent, Gaby only told four other people the truth about her project: her mother, her boyfriend (who had a healthy dose of courage of his own), one sister, and one friend at school. No one else -- her other siblings, her teachers, her friends, or even her boyfriend's own parents -- knew the truth. It was the only way for Gaby to see what people's reactions would really be like if she lived "down" to their expectations of her. (The sister and the friend who were in on the secret were able to monitor other people's reactions and report back to Gaby on what people had to say about her when she wasn't around.)
She faked the pregnancy for six months. Then an assembly was held, giving Gaby the chance to present her findings about the experiences and social treatment of teen moms -- before pulling off her fake pregnancy belly in front of the entire school. I've never called a senior class project "epic" before, but this pretty strongly fits the bill.
I cannot tell you the amount of courage I saw in this teen. Some of the results of her experiment are exactly what you'd expect -- but others were astonishingly surprising, revealing surprising insights about Gaby's community, family, and Gaby herself. And through it all is an important message about family, friends, expectations, and choice ... a message which, now more than ever, needs to be heard.