A High School Project Lights a Fire

Ana Gaston wearing t-shirt she designed - black with a white outline of a woman

Ana models the T-shirt she designed to raise money for Coburn Place.

Ana Gaston’s 2020 diploma at Fishers High School required a service project. She and her two friends, Emily and Carrie, were interested in doing something around the “pink tax,” the extra amount of money women pay for specific products or services.

“We created a petition to end the pink tax in Indiana,” Ana says. “We also collected feminine hygiene products because they’re so expensive. And our thought was that, during a pandemic, women’s shelters were going to struggle because people couldn’t donate their time anymore.” In addition to menstrual products, they collected razors, shampoo and conditioner, but most of their donations were monetary. They raised more than $1,000 in cash and products and brought them to Coburn Place.

Ana is now at IU Bloomington majoring in international relations and French and she and her friends are still giving back. An email from Coburn Place prompted her to call Emily and Carrie again and make a new plan. “The email reminded me of what we had done, and I wanted to help out again,” she says. “Because the pandemic was still going on and we really couldn’t donate our time, we decided to create a design for a T-shirt and sell them.” They raised $500. “It was really cool because most of our donations came from students and people our age,” she says. “It was awesome to see people enjoying being able to give back in some way.”

Ana is part of the Civic Leaders Center at IU, a living/learning community of about 100 students. She’s on the committee that organizes service projects and invited Drew LaCroix, Coburn Place volunteer and resource coordinator, to speak to the group about the mission. “After working with you before, I really love the mission and that you’re taking in survivors – not just to have shelter – but to help them start a life. That really resonated with me.” Ana put on an event to create bathroom starter kits for survivors. “We made 50 different kits with shampoo, conditioner, towels, all the necessities, and we all designed the baskets so whoever got them would be excited.”

Ana says the CLC is hoping to do more projects with Coburn Place next year, and she’s planning to volunteer this summer.

“After working with Coburn Place, I think part of me was really excited because there’s a sense of fulfillment when you’ve done something to empower other women and when something you’ve done is going to make difference in someone’s life,” she says. “Hearing the stories, I realized there’s a lot of privilege in learning about domestic violence through a presentation or through service and not having to learn about it by experiencing it yourself. It made me realize with the time that I have or the money or whatever I can do, giving back is my way of saying, ‘I recognize I didn’t have to live through that myself, but I still stand with you, I support you and I want to do whatever I can to help you be able to get out of that situation.’ Coburn Place is what instigated this love for giving back.”