Kanyn Doan, Community Outreach Educator, Planned Parenthood

Kanyn Doan is a community outreach educator with Planned Parenthood in Michigan, which she explains is just the long way of saying youth sex educator. It’s pretty much her dream job. “I do this every day. I'm in classrooms teaching fifth through twelfth grade, and it's awesome,” the MPS in Sexual Health student says. “It's just the best ever.”

Kanyn’s job is to talk about the things nobody wants, or is too embarrassed, to talk about. But those are the topics that need to be explored. The most rewarding part of her job, Kanyn says, is “creating space for youth to ask questions that they are so often told, whether directly or indirectly, that they're not able to ask.”

Affirming and Empowering

Kanyn earned her undergraduate degree in women, gender, and sexuality studies with a minor in LGBTQ studies. But as a child, she didn’t receive the sex education that she should have. Growing up in a military family that moved around a bit, she simply missed out. 

“And in so many ways, I do it for my sixteen-year-old self.”

“That's unfortunately a common story,” Kanyn says. “There were just gaps in my education, and I feel as though if I would have had access to these kinds of conversations and information, it could have prevented a lot of experiences that I had as a young adult.”

Those experiences forced her to navigate the landscape of emotions and healing without much knowledge. “So if I can be that person for young people in my community as that point of access of affirmation and empowerment, that's what I want to be.”

“And in so many ways,” she adds, “I do it for my sixteen-year-old self.”

Building Trust

Kanyn Doan with one hand resting on the top of her head and one hand under her chin, with the sun behind her.

Talking about sexual health in a room full of middle or high schoolers can be a challenge, to say the least. So how does she create a safe, open space for tough conversations? 

“I really think it has to do with the energy I come in with,” Kanyn explains. “I really try to set a space of access in regards to just showing up as themselves. And very playful, very safe, very trauma informed. These are lenses that I feel like I was able to access in my studies.”

She sets a collective understanding at the beginning of each class that not knowing something is not a sign of weakness. “That's always a place of opportunity for us, because if all of us knew everything about this, then we wouldn't have to talk about it.” 

Kanyn allows students to submit anonymous questions that she answers to the group. She tells them, “This is your chance. I'm gonna answer all of your questions, it doesn't matter what they are. And I'm not gonna go and talk to their teachers about this or talk about something they may have disclosed.”

“How many more voices and experiences still need to be brought to the table?"

She believes this anonymity gives the kids a feeling of power and freedom. Kanyn sees them show up authentically in a way that doesn’t happen in organic conversations.

“I love the honesty and transparency that I'm able to see on that little piece of paper.”

Lately, she has found herself growing more passionate about lifting up the voices of young people. “They have so much insight and so much perspective that often gets ignored or not elevated for so many different reasons,” she says. “How many more voices and experiences still need to be brought to the table? I think it’s just so important to advance this work in the way it needs to be.”

The Value of HSEX Courses

Two hands holding

“It really took those University of Minnesota courses to provide me with more of a comprehensive understanding of the gaps that are present and how to show up as an educator… I feel very fortunate for the intellect and the experience that are brought to this program. A lot of these instructors are doing this work outside of teaching, and I have so much respect for that. It's just so cool how it informs how they teach.”


Memorable Courses

“I take everything that I am reading and learning about and directly apply it to the actual work I'm doing.”

Pro Tips for Students

“Lead with curiosity always, and understand how a person's self work really runs parallel to advancing this field. Because it lives in all of us, just in different ways depending on the identities, privileges, and experiences we have.”

What People Should Take Away from Her Story

“The thread is, this shows up in everything, and this work shows up in every field because it's innately human and a part of so many aspects of who we are and how we connect with ourselves and the world.” 

Note: Kanyn is one of a handful of U of M graduate students selected to teach an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) course as an OLLI Scholar. Her course, The ABCs of Sexual Health: Autonomy, The Body, and Consent will run fall 2023.

Photos of Kanyn courtesy of Elation Studios

How to Stack Your Certificates

Kanyn, who has taken all of her graduate coursework online from her home in Michigan, first enrolled in the CCAPS Human Sexuality Certificate. She was able to apply that certificate towards the MPS in Sexual Health.  

Find out more about stacking CCAPS sexual health certificates.