2023 Sports, Health and Wellness, Small/Medium Newsroom finalist

The Talk

About the Project

In 2021, a year before the overturning of Roe, Scientific American director/producer Jesse Ryan was covering Utah when the state house rejected a bill that would have updated the sex education curriculum to include information about consent.

After the decision, Ryan spent weeks talking to local stakeholders, ultimately finding a nurse practitioner named Danielle Howa Pendergrass. Howa Pendergrass was taking matters into her own hands by launching a new teen-led sex ed program in her rural hometown of Price, Utah.

For nearly a year, Ryan made frequent trips to Price to spend time with Howa Pendergrass and the teens. The resulting film, and the multimedia pieces surrounding it, conveys the intimacy of the community Howa Pendergrass has built, while offering a glimpse into how change happens within a small town – slowly, steadily, and bravely.

In follow-on reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune, reporter Becky Jacobs and photographer Rick Egan followed the teens through their graduation from the program, painting a deep and thoughtful portrait of players in this real life struggle for inclusive sexual health education.