In the final step of her senior project, Gaby Rodriguez - the teen who recently made national and international news for faking a pregnancy - presented her experience Thursday to a committee of community members.
In the final step of her senior project, Gaby Rodriguez – the teen who recently made national and international news for faking a pregnancy – presented her experience Thursday to a committee of community members.
And they gave her high marks and handshakes.
“I was impressed with her professionalism, how she poised herself up there. She seemed to be very confident and calm,” said Barb Moses, the instructional technology coordinator for the Toppenish School District and one of the six people who scored Gaby’s project. “I just have no doubt she’s going to take this experience with her and do great things with it. She’s going to be a lighthouse.”
Like the other 140 Toppenish High School seniors participating in this year’s senior boards, Gaby was judged in six categories: research, project, organization, delivery, professionalism and visual element/technology.
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Each category was worth four points. An average of 2.5 points was needed to pass. Gaby’s average was 3.861.
Gaby didn’t speak to reporters Thursday, part of an agreement with Mercer Island-based literary agent Sharlene Martin. She did, however, interact with the board.
“I felt very comfortable with the material,” she said after her presentation. “I felt I did pretty well.”
So did board members.
“I think she projected well and spoke well,” said Toppenish business owner Carrie Storey. “The teachers here do a really good job of preparing students for these presentations. She’s a perfect example of what the kids do.”
There was a personal connection to the senior project, even before it got going: Gaby’s mother and two of her sisters were teen moms.
“I wanted to be a voice for those unheard,” Gaby told the board.
She described how she attended birthing classes “to see different mothers at different stages” of pregnancy. “In the first couple of months, I knew I had to be nauseous, and I had to pee a lot.”
She also said there were many moments when she wanted to give up and end the charade. Only a handful of people – including her mother, 52-year-old Juana Rodriguez, and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jorge Orozco – knew she was pretending.
Her teachers and fellow students, except for her best friend, didn’t know they were part of a social experiment. Neither did six of her seven siblings, her boyfriend’s parents and his five younger brothers and sisters.
“I was emotional because I knew I was lying to them. … But for them, they thought I was emotional because I was pregnant,” Gaby said.
Her presentation, which lasted about 10 minutes, took place after school in the library. It was the last of this year’s senior project presentations.
Of course, board members – and much of the country – had already heard about her experiment.
In a school assembly April 20, the 17-year-old senior took off her faux baby bump to reveal she had been faking the pregnancy for six and a half months.
The next day’s story and photos in the Herald-Republic were picked up by the Associated Press, and reaction poured in from around the world.
Within a week, representatives from ABC, NBC and CBS were vying for the chance to interview her.
One TV reporter even tried tracking her down during a field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival during her first weekend without her faux baby belly since spring break.
Gaby told people she became pregnant at homecoming. Her supposed due date was July 27.
From her experience, she told the board she learned “how important it is for you to take care of yourself and your life before you can take care of someone else.”
She also said it strengthened her relationship with her boyfriend.
He appeared with Gaby live on NBC’s “Today” show May 10, along with her mother and principal Trevor Greene, who was in on the secret.
She initially planned to appear on ABC but backed out of that agreement, opting for NBC, which, according to Martin, her agent, offered Gaby a scholarship. Martin didn’t say how much it was worth.
Early on, Greene served as Gaby’s media liaison. She’s now represented by Martin and Seattle attorney Anne Bremner.
Martin asked Greene not to allow media, other than the videographer hired on Gaby’s behalf, to view Thursday’s presentation, which was attended by the Herald-Republic and the Review Independent newspaper.
A book deal with a New York-based ghostwriter is in the works, Martin said, as is a movie deal with the Lifetime Movie Network.
Gaby had been planning to attend Columbia Basin College in the fall. Now, she’s looking into Central Washington University and Pacific Lutheran University. She wants to study social work and has a particular interest in foster care.
“I know that I was able to inspire so many people,” Gaby said. “It’s definitely an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. I’m definitely taking advantage of all the opportunities that have opened up for me.”
Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com