This story was originally published in UKNow.
Kotomi Yokokura, a student in the College of Social Work and Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, has been recognized as the 2022-23 Newman Civic Fellow.
Sponsored by Campus Compact, the fellowship recognizes students who engage in collaborative campus and community action to create social change, as well as address inequality and political polarization through civic engagement.
The yearlong fellowship program provides students with opportunities that emphasize personal, professional and civic growth. “I’m honored to represent UK and be able to work with other service-oriented students across the nation,” Kotomi said. “I’m also excited to grow through future collaborations.”
Kotomi, an Otis A. Singletary Scholar, is recognized as a leader on campus, and in the greater community, on the issue of “period poverty,” which describes the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and education in the United States and abroad.
Last year, Kotomi founded the “Take a Tampon” initiative — hosting a donation drive to ensure ample supply of hygiene products across campus.
Kotomi also sought collaborative partnerships with other institutions, including the University of Louisville, to address this issue on higher education campuses, in low-income middle and high schools, and at homeless shelters across the state.
Additionally, she has participated in advocacy efforts with Kentucky legislators, as well as planned awareness-raising events in Frankfort.
“I’m passionate about my research, because there are many stigmas in our society that affect service provision and policies,” Kotomi said. “I’m hoping, through research, we can work to better assist underserved communities.”
Kotomi’s work in the community also includes research on two other important issues. She assisted with research on the migration of the homeless in relation to community services available with Andrew Sullivan, Ph.D. (Martin School of Public Policy and Administration). She also focused on the perceptions and utilization of social support among chronically homeless men with Natalie Pope, Ph.D. (College of Social Work).
“We are extremely proud of the work Kotomi has done,” Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work, said. “She serves as an example of the impact that our students can have, and we look forward to seeing how her work progresses.”
Additionally, Kotomi is working on a survey research project through the UK Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment that explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college students’ psychosocial health, formal and informal support utilization, employment, food insecurity, and social behaviors.
Kotomi has a published peer-reviewed journal article on homelessness (in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “Cityscape”) and has contributed to the development of a manuscript on college students’ psychosocial health, employment and food insecurity that has been approved by the Georgia Journal of College Student Affairs.