Working With ‘Sex Ed Sam’ by Emily Weiss

Emily Weiss is a rising sophomore studying English Literature at Princeton University. Leila Reines is a rising senior studying Biology and Society at Cornell University, and Abby Stubenhofer is a rising junior, also studying English, at Franklin and Marshall College. All three are Talk graduates: Emily attended Shady Side Academy, and Leila and Abby studied together at the Ellis School. Each is excited to spend the summer helping Sam extend Talk’s reach to empower more teens with the tools they need to have happy, healthy relationships.


My first observation of the Talk office: this space is wild – where’s my cubicle? My second observation (directly following a “lowkey” summer staff onboarding meeting): Sam is a busy, busy woman – what did I get myself into?

Though the initial meeting was a mix of excitement and fear, there was really no need to be worried. One of the first things I’ve learned at Talk is that when I’m fully engaged in my work, it seems like I can do anything that Sam puts in front of me. Sam entrusts us with a high level of responsibility, and everything we do is meaningful. One of our major projects is to help Sam launch Virtual Talk, a program that will deliver Talk’s programming to any teenager who needs it. As a Talk graduate, I know it would be monumental for everyone to have access to Sam’s programming. In a way, Leila, Abby, and I are helping to change the world here. While at first that seemed like an overwhelming prospect, once we fully committed to the process, it somehow started to feel totally manageable.

As a former student of Sam’s, I was only able to imagine her in what I saw as her natural habitat—a simple classroom, a whiteboard, a huge bag of sex ed accoutrements. In the first two weeks at my internship, I’ve learned that, in fact, Sam exists in many different realms. One of the more unexpected tasks I’ve been given is researching the pop culture references that saturate the current films and books. Sam is aware that these works act as sources of information which the teens and parents she teaches are constantly influenced by. Having moved from student to intern, I’m starting to see the importance of these influences from the other side. However, the interns and I are no longer passive observers: we’ve graduated from Talk, and now we’re taking our passion for the program and turning it into something that will help other teens take control of their sexual health.