Kotomi Yokukura, a social work major, has a genuine passion and dedication to issues surrounding poverty and women's rights which has led her to take initiative to make an impact in those areas. Kotomi has been a leader around the issue of "period poverty" which describes the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene supplies and education both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to on-campus campaigns, she has also sought collaborative partnerships with other institutions including the University of Louisville to address this issue on a state-wide basis in higher education institutions, low-income middle and high schools, as well as homeless shelters. Kotomi's work also includes research on homelessness and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on college students. Kotomi assisted with research on the migration of the homeless in relation to community services available, as well as research on the perceptions and utilization of social support among chronically homeless men. In addition, Kotomi is working on a survey research project that explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college students' psychosocial health, formal and informal support utilization, employment, food insecurity, and social behaviors.
From a young age, I felt a burning desire to help others and fight for those without a voice. Any timidity dissipated when I set out to defend those who had been overlooked. As I began to volunteer throughout my community, I found my passion for working with people experiencing poverty, food insecurity, and/or homelessness. I became aware of the stigma surrounding these experiences as I saw some treat those in need with disdain and act as though they were invisible. My commitment to change these situations drives my need to help others. During my time at the University of Kentucky, I have been able to conduct research on the experience of homelessness and food insecurity, with a focus on migration and social support. I have also founded a student organization to help fight period poverty both on campus and in the community. My goal is to continue conducting research in hopes of improving policies/programs and eliminating the stigmas targeting these communities.