Ignacio High School sophomore Gabriana "Gabby" Creason recently brought home a gold medal from a state conference for a project about sexual consent.
Creason evaluated her classmates' understanding of consent and worked to raise awareness about what sexual consent is and is not.
She did the project through her Family, Community and Career Leaders of America club - formerly Future Homemakers of America. Its focus this year is on "Stop the Violence," said club sponsor Lynn Blakesley.
The genesis of the project was a conversation with a friend.
"I had a friend a while ago who told me she and her boyfriend would have sex whether or not she wanted to," said Creason, 16. "Then we were talking about teen dating violence in FCCLA, and I wanted to do something about it."
She conducted a survey of 83 IHS students using real-life scenarios to get a baseline on her classmates' attitudes on the subject.
"That was actually the hardest part, creating an unbiased survey," Blakesley said. "That's a good skill for her to have."
The biggest surprise from the initial survey, Creason said, was that many people thought it was OK to have sex with someone who is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
"They said, 'Well, they're unconscious, so it doesn't really matter,'" she said.
She consulted with Maura Doherty-Demko, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Services Organization, about ways to raise awareness around the issue, and Doherty-Demko said discussion had proved more effective than lecturing.
So Creason held several discussion groups and contacted art students at the school to make posters, which she hung around the building.
"The data definitely changed," she said. "After we talked, people were saying, 'Oh, I didn't understand that it's wrong because they can't say 'yes.'"
The gold medal is awarded differently than in other competitions, Blakesley said, because students aren't compared with each other, rather to a rubric that classifies standards.
It's possible that no gold medal will be awarded if no student meets the standards, but this year, Colorado had two gold-medal projects in the advocacy category.
Creason, the daughter of Dale and Jill Creason, is planning to pursue a career as a toxicologist. She's busy now with soccer and raising money to attend the national FCCLA convention in July. But her advocacy to educate other students about sexual consent is probably not over.
"During the discussion groups, I realized it wasn't just Ignacio High School students who needed to know," she said, "but Bayfield, Durango and Cortez need it, too."