UK College of Social Work Student to Receive CSWE Community Partnership Action Award

Kotomi Yokokura

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The CSWE (Council on Social Work Education) Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice has selected Kotomi Yokokura to receive their Community Partnership Action award.

Yokokura, a student in the College of Social Work and Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, is being honored in the Student Project category for her work on the Take a Tampon program.

The Community Partnership Action award recognizes a social work student who has engaged in a community partnership activity that successfully promoted social, economic, or environmental justice. CSWE believes that community partnership actions are central to the advancement of social and economic justice, which is intrinsic to social work education. Dr. Kalea Benner, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, says “Kotomi’s initiative is truly reflective of our social work profession that identifies issues with a significant individual impact and then seeks solutions at the policy or macro level. This awareness and use of multifaceted levels of problem solving is key to improving wellbeing.”

Take a Tampon began during Yokokura’s freshman year, when she hosted a donation drive of hygiene products after realizing how prevalent period poverty is, and how detrimental it can be to mental and physical health, as well as academic success.

Period poverty is the lack of accessibility or affordability of menstrual hygiene products, education and associated facilities. As a result of this experience, individuals may resort to reusing old products and repurposing rags or cardboard in place of proper menstrual hygiene products. However, this ingenuity can lead to negative mental and physical health consequences, ranging from Toxic Shock Syndrome and infections to increased rates of depression and anxiety. Period poverty can also bleed into one’s academic achievement, with 84% of U.S. teens reporting that they have missed class or know someone who has missed class due to the lack of menstrual hygiene products.

Take a Tampon currently has several basket locations across campus that are stocked with free products and has provided over 1,000 menstrual hygiene products to UK students. The hope is to continue expanding access to resources with more product drives and an online donation portal at

Yokokura continues to advocate for more period poverty awareness, knowing that it is not limited to the UK campus. Conversations with Kentucky teachers and school social workers who have revealed the common concern that students throughout the state face barriers to accessing menstrual hygiene products and education. As a result of this, Take a Tampon provides menstrual education to local high school students and advocates for state legislation addressing experiences of period poverty. Yokokura has also met with state representatives and senators to advocate for free and accessible menstrual hygiene products in K-12 public schools, along with the removal of state sales taxes on feminine hygiene products.

Future plans for the Take a Tampon program include partnering with UK’s Office of Sustainability to create a plan that will provide menstrual hygiene products in bathrooms around campus by 2024. Yokokura shares that another goal is to continue expanding collaborations across Kentucky. “In partnership with the nonprofit Helping Hygiene, we hope to collaborate with high school students to provide menstrual hygiene education, promote state and local advocacy opportunities, and work alongside students to create their own hygiene product program.”

Yokokura says that receiving this award is a tremendous honor, and she is amazed at how what started as a small act of campus service has expanded into a large grassroots initiative. “Take a Tampon started as a couple of baskets and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. Receiving this award means that Take a Tampon’s work in prioritizing student voices and proactively collaborating with the greater community has been steps in the right direction. It also helps me to see that you don’t have to wait until you have entered the professional field to make an impact; students are making meaningful contributions as well.”

The award will be formally presented at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting, which is scheduled to take place in Atlanta, GA, from October 26 – 29, 2023.

For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.  

Kotomi Yokokura

UK College of Social Work Student to Receive CSWE Community Partnership Action Award