With her passion for the medical field and her love for working with children, joining the Youth Education and Maternal Association was a no-brainer for YEMSA President Akshitha Ag.
“For me specifically, I love working with children, and I know maternal health is something that’s very important to me, and this club was the perfect fit for that,” said Ag, a senior biology major and student body vice president.
Members of YEMSA mentor elementary students through the organization’s collaboration with the Achieve Now program, which partners college students with local students for weekly tutoring. YEMSA was founded in 2019 and encourages youth education and maternal advocacy through programs like their March 15 hygiene drive, which helped them collect 100 products that were donated to Mary’s Shelter, an organization based in Reading, Pennsylvania. The organization has 50 Temple students and educates them on topics like youth education and maternal health.
Many of the organization’s members feel the club is important because it is the only group of its kind at Temple.
“YEMSA is such a niche organization in that we focus on two very specific topics, youth education and maternal health, which are, again, very niche but very important topics in not just like the medical field, but just I think it’s something that society as a whole needs to be aware of,” Ag said.
Maternal support is a prevalent issue among college students. For example, 58 percent of Black student parents drop out of college, according to a March 2021 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Seventy-eight percent of parenting students experience financial difficulties, according to a July 2022 report by the Trellis Company, which can lead to struggles obtaining necessary resources.
Through YEMSA’s collaboration with Achieve Now, Cleopatra Nehme has built a relationship with an elementary school student and has seen her improve during their weekly reading sessions.
“It’s been really rewarding watching her grow so much and learn so much in such like a short period of time, and like I said, it’s really rewarding and like humbling because it’s literally an hour a week, but it makes such a difference,” said Nehme, vice president of YEMSA and a senior neuroscience major.
The organization also hosts educational panels for club members and the university community where Temple professors discuss topics like maternal health and education.
YEMSA also collaborates with other clubs like PERIOD, a student organization that advocates for menstrual equity. From March 27-31, PERIOD and YEMSA hosted a bingo board fundraiser to raise money for earthquake relief funds in Turkey and Syria.
The two organizations closely collaborate because of similarities in their mission statements, Ag said.
These partnerships help YEMSA to get other viewpoints on topics and reach more students with their programming.
“I think like collaborating with PERIOD has been really beneficial, just because I think it gets also like a new perspective whenever we do an event, just because it’s like a different group of people coming to the events and working with us and it’s a great way for like students to interact and like learn more about different clubs,” Nehme said.
Being part of this organization has helped members like Sarah Nice become more aware of the issues that students who are parents face.
“We’re in college, and at the age that we are, we’re focused on getting good grades and trying to develop ourselves into the next steps after college, and we don’t necessarily always think about the world around us and the people around us,” said Nice, a senior neuroscience major.
Going forward, YEMSA hopes to continue partnering with other organizations like PERIOD and sororities on campus to expand their relationships with both local and Temple organizations.
“I would love to see YEMSA partner with more organizations on campus, I think building community relationships is always very important, especially being in local Philadelphia, I think it’s a great opportunity for Temple University to also collaborate with organizations that are off campus as well,” Ag said.
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