Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
“Ladies please stop throwing tampons around the locker room!”
These words bounced off the dimly lit walls like the fluorescent lights above us. Thirty seventh graders paused the weekly ritual of cramming their Ugg boots into chipped maroon lockers to listen to what our gym teacher had to complain about this time. Sixty eyes rolled at every mention of “disrespecting school property” and “taxpayer dollars down the drain” and “do you even realize that some girls don’t have access to these sanitary supplies?”
Pause. Even my juvenile thirteen year old self could understand the weight behind that last question. There were boxes in the front office of my middle school requesting donations for various causes, one of them being a Philadelphia women’s shelter. Tampons were on the list of urgent needs for this shelter, and we were throwing them around like footballs.
Fast forward four years. I was a junior in high school, walking through Philadelphia with friends on a weekend morning. A swarm of people congregated in front of a building on the corner of 12th and Locust street. Upon further inspection, I realized that the building was a Planned Parenthood site, and the flock of individuals were comprised of nervous-looking women attempting to enter the frosted glass front door, and protesters bent upon preventing this. The protesters were screaming at the women while Planned Parenthood employees in orange vests shooed them off, corralling them to a different part of the sidewalk. As we neared the crowd, one worker apologized for the commotion, explaining that this happened nearly every day. He elaborated that most of these women did not come to Planned Parenthood for abortions (as many believe), but instead relied on its services for disease testing, routine checkups, and other health needs.
I was astonished by the amount of people attempting to prevent these women from accessing necessary health services. I remembered the donation boxes in my middle school begging for basic supplies for women in the city, then looked at the women facing angry protesters for services I take for granted while living in the comfortable suburbs. I decided in that very moment, I would do everything in my power to make a difference for these women.
To ignore this vital moment would be to overlook that I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and this city is my home. I grew up in a single-parent home, with my mother’s guidance on how to be compassionate towards myself and others. I grew up in a city where I saw that this compassion is not always present – in a city of brotherly love, where is the love for women? Where is the urgency to provide safe, reliable health services to women in dire need of them? These questions lie omnipresent, unspoken in the underbelly of skyscrapers; the answers, with me.