Friday, April 22, 2011

Teen fakes pregnancy as school project

Toppenish High School senior Gaby Rodriguez talks about rumors and stereotypes at a school assembly in Toppenish, Wash., during which she revealed that for the bulk of her senior year the 17-year-old A-student faked her own pregnancy in order to test the reactions of her friends and family for a senior project.

Gaby Rodriguez would worry whenever anyone asked to touch her baby bump.

It wasn't because she felt shy or embarrassed. It was because the bulge - fashioned from wire mesh and cotton quilt batting - didn't actually contain a baby.

For the past 6 1/2 months - the bulk of her senior year at Toppenish High School - the 17-year-old A-student faked her own pregnancy.

Only a handful of people - her mother, boyfriend and principal among them - knew Gaby was pretending to be pregnant for her senior project, a culminating assignment required for graduation.

Her teachers and fellow students, except for her best friend, didn't realize they were part of a social experiment.

Neither did six of her seven siblings, including four older brothers, her boyfriend's parents, and his five younger brothers and sisters.

"At times, I just wanted to take it off and be done," she says. "I didn't want to go through this anymore."

But Gaby didn't give up the charade until Wednesday morning, when she revealed her secret during an emotional, all-school assembly.

The topic of her presentation: "Stereotypes, rumors and statistics."

"Teenagers tend to live in the shadows of these elements," she says.

Before taking off her fake baby belly in front of the entire student body, Gaby told her audience, "Many things were said about me. Many things traveled all the way back to me."

Then, she asked several students and teachers to read statements from 3x5 cards, quotes people actually said about her during the course of her experiment.

Her best friend, Saida Cortes, a 17-year-old senior who was sitting in the front row, read card No. 3: "Her attitude is changing, and it might be because of the baby or she was always this annoying and I never realized it."

It grew quiet in the gym as more and more quotes were read aloud. Then Gaby dropped her bomb: "I'm fighting against those stereotypes and rumors because the reality is I'm not pregnant." ...

Gaby began wearing her homemade, basketball-sized, prosthetic belly to school after spring break. Before that, she wore baggy sweaters and sweatshirts to conceal her faux pregnancy.

Her supposed due date was July 27, not quite two months after graduation. ...

Wednesday, Gaby apologized to teachers and students for misleading them.

When she took off her baby belly, there were a few nervous giggles, and a loud, "Whaaaaat?!" from the audience.

Then, there was applause. And, at the end of the assembly, following a Q&A session, there was a standing ovation, the first one Greene says he remembers during his three-year tenure at Toppenish High School.

"She really fooled me. I never would've guessed it," says 17-year-old senior Vicente Villanueva. "I'm really surprised."

So was 19-year-old Angel Jalomo, a 2010 Davis High School graduate and Gaby's niece: "I didn't know what to say. I just started crying."

Gaby will present her research to a board of community members in May. It will include photos and video from Wednesday's assembly. And Gaby still needs to finish writing her report. But by revealing the project to students Wednesday, she can go on her English class trip to Ashland, Ore., on Friday without her baby belly.

Plus, she didn't want to be pregnant for prom. She already has her dress, a teal form-fitting mermaid gown with spaghetti straps.

Gaby plans to attend Columbia Basin College to study social work or sociology in the fall. And, she says, "I'm not planning to have a child until after I graduate." ...

via Local News | Toppenish teen fakes pregnancy as school project | Seattle Times Newspaper.

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