I AM Bill: Civic Engagement Project pushes students to make changes in the world


Credit: Tina Su

Students in the AP Government and Politics class participate in a Civic Engagement Project every year. The project pushes them to take action towards issues, bills and policies that they feel passionate about.

Tina Su

Every year, several Wayland High School students have voiced feeling helpless while scrolling through the news and seeing lawmakers pass policies and bills that they do not agree with. Juniors Trisha Raj and Olivia Lappin, as well as seniors Mia Djafari and Asher Biddle, decided to take action by pursuing a project focused on period equity in public buildings, something many students have voiced concern over.

In the WHS Advanced Placement Government and Politics class, students were tasked with creating a Civic Engagement Project. Many believe that the Civic Engagement Project, which was mandated by Governor Charlie Baker in 2018, is an important step to giving students a voice in their communities.

“I have always felt that [the Civic Engagement Project] is central to what it is that we are doing as social studies teachers,” AP Government and Politics teacher Eva Urban said. “If you were to ask any teacher in the school what they hope a student gets out of their class, it wouldn’t be the [content]. [The teacher] would probably say that they want [their] students to be good people and good citizens [and] be able to go out into the world and understand what is going on. [Teachers want their students to] make effective decisions and understand how to influence policy in a way that demonstrates good citizenship.”

For Raj, Lappin, Djafari and Biddle’s Civic Engagement Project, the group decided to focus on the I AM Bill that would require schools, jails and other public buildings to provide free menstrual products in their bathrooms.

“[The I AM Bill] has already passed the Massachusetts Senate and just needs to pass the [Massachusetts State] House,” Lappin said.

Over the course of the project, Raj, Lappin, Djafari and Biddle have reached out to many state officials in order to get the I AM Bill passed by the Massachusetts State House before the end of the legislative session.

“One of our first steps was contacting the Director of MassNow, an organization that is pushing for this bill,” Raj said. “We had a Zoom call with [MassNow executive director] Sasha Goodfriend, and one of her interns, and she told us about a bunch of different ways we could participate in this bill and help it get passed.”

The group didn’t stop there, as members continued to reach out to other representatives who are in support of the I AM Bill. The group hoped that this would help publicize the bill and get it passed.

“The next steps were going through all of the legislators,” Lappin said. “[We met with] our state senator, Becca Rausch, who is a huge advocate for this bill. [She is always] going to the rallies and helped get [the bill] through the Senate.We [also] contacted Wayland’s two representatives, Carmen Gentil and Alice Peisch. We were able to start talking to people in their offices to try and talk to them some more about the bill.”

Raj, Lappin, Djafari and Biddle want to pass the I AM bill in order to provide fellow WHS students with easier access to menstrual products at school. However, they also want to inform students about how period inequity affects others around them, specifically in lower income communities.

“[There are reasons outside of the high school level for] why this bill is needed,” Lappin said. “In lower income communities where [people] can’t afford [menstrual products], [many are faced with the reality of] choosing between food or menstrual products.”

Because outcomes of the I AM Bill will affect approximately half of WHS, Lappin, Raj, Djafari and Biddle believe that passing the bill would greatly benefit many students, and have been working toward this goal for the past several months. While progress has been made, there is still more to do.

“We really want [the I AM] Bill to be publicized [at WHS] because [period inequality] is such a big issue for every menstruating individual at our school,” Lappin said. “A lot of [menstruating individuals] have had those moments where we have to run down to the nurse for an extra ten minutes to get what we need, [rather than being provided with products in the bathroom].”