Planned Parenthood Generation Action COA and allies collecting signatures on their proposal to pr...Planned Parenthood Generation Action COA and allies collecting signatures on their proposal to provide free menstrual products in COA restrooms. From left, COA Director of Campus Planning, Buildings, and Public Safety Millard Dority, Clare Kelley '19, Petra Laucikova '20, Elise Martin '19, and Julia Seixas '20. Credit: Yoi Ashida ’20

COA students Elise Martin ’19, Julia Seixas ’20, and Petra Laucikova ’20 are the founders of Planned Parenthood Generation Action COA. United by academic and social justice passions, the trio is responsible for the placement of free menstrual products in all non-residential restrooms, as well as workshops, voter registration efforts, and communications training for COA students. 

Laucikova, Martin, and Seixas share a drive to advocate around sexual and reproductive health. Their first project together came as a result of a paper that Laucikova was writing for professor Ron Beard’s Community Skills and Practical Development class on access to menstrual products. Realizing that they had the potential to effect real change on campus, the trio would go on to spend months crafting a policy that would place menstrual products in campus bathrooms, eventually bringing it to the All College Meeting, COA’s campus governance body. The Free Menstrual Products Policy was passed by unanimous vote.

Julia Seixas ’20 (from left), Elise Martin ’19, and Petra Laucikova ’20 proudly show off th...Julia Seixas ’20 (from left), Elise Martin ’19, and Petra Laucikova ’20 proudly show off the first shipment of menstrual products for supply kits to be placed in COA bathrooms.

“COA sent a loud message that menstrual products are necessities, not luxuries, and that supplying these products creates a more equitable learning environment for students who menstruate,” Martin said.

The trio’s work on the policy sparked an important dialogue at COA about the struggles menstruators can face. Conversations and research revealed that more than a third of menstruators on campus have started their period unexpectedly in public and did not have menstrual supplies immediately available, leaving them with no other options but to improvise. COA community members recounted stories of making menstrual supplies with toilet paper and frantically asking friends for supplies. 

“Petra had a concern about the issue, and the course gave her a framework for asking ‘How do we get something done?’ and ‘How do we change things?’” Beard said. “I’m very proud of all three of them, very excited that they were able to identify an issue that was of concern to people on campus, to recognize the implications of that, and to chart a course to making change. I couldn’t ask for anything more in my class than for students to understand that process and to make that kind of change.” 

Since the enactment of this policy, Martin has graduated and is working as a community outreach advocate at the nonprofit Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine. Seixas and Laucikova are finishing their final year at COA; each has continued to focus on sexual and reproductive health issues, both within and in coordination with their academic studies.

Petra Laucikova '20 (from left), Julia Seixas '20, and Kathryn Bradley '21 represent ...Petra Laucikova '20 (from left), Julia Seixas '20, and Kathryn Bradley '21 represent COA Planned Parenthood Generation Action at the 2020 MDI Women's March in Bar Harbor. Credit: Yoi Ashida ’20

Currently Seixas is working on her senior project of crafting a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum inspired by her research into the massive gap in sex education across the country. Last summer, she worked at Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, a sexual and reproductive health center that provides healthcare services for people of all genders. 

“I believe comprehensive sexuality education is one of the fundamental components to prepare young people for their future,” she said.  

This past fall, Laucikova spent time in the Carolinas and Texas partnering with a U.S.-based disaster relief organization for her senior project. Her experiences there influence her senior project, which explores how a more holistic, systematic, and efficient U.S. domestic disaster response can be built. Now that she is back on campus, she is enthusiastic about continuing to work on addressing sexual and reproductive health within the school community. 

Planned Parenthood Generation Action COA (PPGA) continues to educate and advocate for positive change on campus. The group aims to support access to menstrual products in residential restrooms in order to address broader public health and equity issues. They hold events such as DIY cloth pad workshops and sex education trivia nights, collect donations for Planned Parenthood, and work to get out the vote. 

The group joined forces with Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and others to put on Bridging the Gap, a deep-canvassing training led by experts from Portland’s Menstrual product supply kits ready to go into COA bathrooms, thanks to the hard work of the memb...Menstrual product supply kits ready to go into COA bathrooms, thanks to the hard work of the members of Planned Parenthood Generation Action COA and the overwhelming support of the COA community at All College Meeting.Planned Parenthood. Throughout the day-long event, participants learned about abortion as a medical and political issue, developed and heard abortion stories, and challenged their own stigma. They also learned proven techniques for talking with voters about abortion and abortion stigma effectively. The College of the Atlantic Henry David Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative and Indivisible MDI were also co-sponsors of the event.

The members of PPGA have been successful in channeling their passions into real-world, actionable results. Through their work, they are raising consciousness at COA and co-creating an evolving community with a progressive social-justice framework. College governance structure and value placed around student-driven efforts at COA do a lot to encourage such work, Laucikova said.

“Whether through committees, departments, or as individuals, at COA we have the power to enact change on campus. That is something that all of COA should be proud of,” she said.