Claire Anderson, contributing writer

 

 

Because of organizations like The Policy Project, topics often considered taboo and brushed under the rug are now being brought to the Utah Legislature.

Founded by Utah native Emily Bell McCormick, The Policy Project’s mission is to “promote solution-based policy proposals that remove barriers to opportunity for women, children, and those experiencing intergenerational poverty.”

The program’s first focus was The Period Project, which began in 2021. This campaign advocates for access to period products in all Utah schools, workplaces, and public spaces. During the 2022 Utah Legislative Session, H.B. 162: “Period Products in Schools” was passed, making Utah the first state to supply period products in all girl and non-gender bathrooms in every public and charter school across the state.

“Nationally, 8 out of 10 girls have missed school or know someone who has because of lack of access to period products,” Brooke Gledhill Wood, director of legal and programs for The Policy Project, said. “Now, H.B. 162 has been implemented in Utah and allows girls and menstruators to stay in school and have greater access to the classroom.”

The Period Project is still in action today, and recently succeeded in making Utah the first state in the nation to supply free period products in all state executive branch buildings.

The Policy Project’s Student Ambassador Program provides a great way for students ages 12 to 18 to involve themselves in service and community engagement.

“Last year, we had hundreds of students — many of them from Cache Valley — join us in our efforts to get period products in schools,” Brooke said. “They wrote their legislators, met with their principals, talked with their peers, and helped change the narrative around a formerly taboo topic. Then, this school year, those same students walked into their school bathrooms and saw a newly installed period product dispenser and were able to say, ‘I made this happen.’”

The Policy Project’s latest endeavor is The Teen Center Project, which focuses on supporting and amplifying school efforts to meet basic needs via Teen Centers to help the most vulnerable students graduate and prepare to succeed as adults.

A group of Cache County parents recently hosted an event with The Policy Project at Ridgeline High School to spread awareness about students throughout the community who lack basic necessities like food, laundry, showers, and mental wellness.

“We believe that schools can help remove barriers to student learning by creating space within their schools with services that include food pantries, laundry facilities, private showers, and a trusted adult to help connect students and families to community resources,” Mary Catherine Perry, The Policy Project’s director of policy and government affairs, said.

The Policy Project and Cache Valley citizens are asking the Utah Legislature to participate in a public-private partnership to provide funding to allow Utah schools to build or improve services that help meet students’ basic needs.

“We know high schools are already doing amazing work to help serve their students,” Mary Catherine said. “We are hopeful that once we secure state-wide funding from the Legislature, Ridgeline and other area high schools will utilize those funds to expand their services and hopefully create comprehensive teen center spaces in their schools. Thousands of students in Cache Valley will be impacted by this project.”

“We have been so grateful for the support of community members in Cache Valley for both of these projects!” Brooke said. “We had over 100 students and adults attend both an event last year in support of the Period Project and this year in support of the Teen Center Project.”

Cache Valley community members can get involved in this impactful cause in many ways. Follow The Policy Project’s work on Instagram @thepolicyproject or visit their website, thepolicyproject.org, to learn about community events, volunteer opportunities, and their student ambassador program.