Towers Talk is a WVU podcast featuring Residence Hall Coordinators Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O’Donnell. Each week, the hosts bring you an interview with different members of the WVU community to help you get adjusted to your new campus home!

Join Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O'Donnell as they interview their friends from Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Ixya Vega and Emily Womeldorff. Ixya and Emily will talk about the work they’ve done in the Morgantown community and all of the services that Planned Parenthood has to offer. Check it out here!

Transcription:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Towers Talk. I'm Angela. I'm Patrick. Welcome back to another week. The Towers Talk podcast is brought to you by Lyon, Bennett and Braxton Towers. Towers. You can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us again today.

We are joined by Ixya Vega and Emily Womble, DOR of planned Parenthood, South Atlantic. Welcome Ixya and Emily. Hey, thanks for having us. So first, can you both share a bit about, more about your educational background and how you ended up working for planned Parenthood South Atlanta? Hi Alexia. I'm originally from Chicago, but I decided to come to WVU for my undergrad and I actually lived in Bennett.

So very excited to be here today. But one day I heard on campus that we had a planned Parenthood group starting up and that it was, they were going to have their first meeting. And I like, wasn't really involved my freshman year because you know, like your first year of college and you're kind of scared and nervous.

So I decided sophomore year that I was going to get more involved and be more intentional. So then when I heard about it, I went to the meeting and they were looking for officers and I was like, hi, I'm here. Please give me something to do because I want to go row. So eventually I ended up becoming the vice president and then later on the president and then through planned Parenthood generation action.

I met Emily and Emily was the field organizer for West Virginia at the time. And she was looking for an intern and I happened to be looking for an internship. So it worked pretty well, but I really ended up. Loving what planned Parenthood stood for and all of the stuff that it had to do with West Virginia and I'm a history, I was a history major.

So I got really into Appalachian studies and I got super involved with like Morgantown in West Virginia in general. And the fact that planned Parenthood not only has great services and I'm a patient of them too. So like, I love that for all of us. They gave me opportunities to try new things all over the country and travel all throughout West Virginia, where like, if I didn't work for planned Parenthood, I would not have seen half of the things I've seen.

So yeah, that's just a little bit of a, how I ended up Peter. And now you're in a field organizer. Oh yeah. Field organizer. It just happened to work out at the time that I was graduating in May Emily's position opened up, so I applied and I got it, so they love to hire with it, but it was super exciting.

It came full circle and I'm just super pumped to be here. Yeah. I love listening to Ixya's story of falling in love with West Virginia as a West Virginia. It warms my home. I also have a similar origin story to my like planned Parenthood journey. I grew up in Morgantown but I went to school in Shepherdstown at shepherd university.

I. Got my BA in English and I had an, a minor in gender and women's studies. And through my minor, I was sat on the, I was a student representative for the gender moment studies board at shepherd, and started getting a bump with it. They were doing. Met the field organizer for planned Parenthood at the time, whose name is also Emily.

And we started a generation action group out at shepherd university, but I was graduating because my senior year. And so I left and then I came back to Morgantown and was like, Oh, it's after college. I don't know what I'm doing. And I kind of followed the field organizer around and was volunteering until eventually I got an internship.

And then almost a year later, I ended up getting the field organizer position when it opened up. And then it kind of just grew from there. So I've been with planned Parenthood since, as an intern, at least up until now, since like 2017. So that's been cool and we both kind of came from like, starting from college up until here.

Look at us who would have thought that's awesome. Thank you so much. So to start us off with questions, a lot of our listeners may not realize all of the great services that planned Parenthood offers the community. Can you talk about some of these services? So yeah, planned Parenthood doesn't technically have a health center in Morgantown, but actually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it turned our plans for eventual telemedicine services into overdrive.

And so now. We do have one health center that's located in Vienna, West Virginia, but students and residents of Morgantown could all utilize the services that are being a health center, which includes affordable family planning services, like birth control, cancer screenings education kind of just like.

A lot of those things that you would need for your reproductive, healthcare and wellness. And then also like AC and I work for the advocacy arm of planned Parenthood. And so a lot of what we have to do, what we do has to do with like community organizing and fighting for access to a better or expanded reproductive healthcare.

And it's. Really big range of what all that means. But it could mean anything from like, you know, working at the state level for better legislation or, you know, helping set up period product donation drives. So there's so much that we do, but we really work to make sure that folks in all the communities that we work in or serve have access to a better shot at reproductive healthcare and wellness for whatever that means.

Awesome. Thank you so much. All right. So the next question we have for you is, are you all working on any community projects that you'd like to share with our listeners, which primarily like our first year students or anybody? Honestly, that's listening to this episode today. So right now we're doing a ton of stuff.

So rounding, menstrual equity mental equity is the idea and the thought and the belief that everyone should have access to period products, regardless of gender sexual orientation, race. And economic status. So we are doing a bunch of different stuff with that. We actually just have a lobby day this week where folks got to community members and constituents got to talk to some of their delegates and their senators and urge them to prioritize periods.

So that's why our campaign is called prioritize periods. And it we're super excited about it because we've seen a lot. Of people in the community react well to it and want to get involved. And I think that this is also a perfect opportunity for students to get involved. There's people on the WTU campus who are going out of their way to make sure that they're getting involved with this and setting up their own drives and planning out pickup stations and drop off stations and delivery like.

Services too. So we're super excited about what's going on there. And WVU has been great about wanting to get involved with this too. And you'll see some, like, Drop off stations and pickup locations on your campus. So that's super exciting. So we're right now, we're really about prioritizing periods.

Yeah. And actually there are, as of right now, there are five different locations that you can get free period products, courtesy of the prioritized periods campaign on WDS campus. So in the downtown library, the Evansdale library. The health sciences library, there are stations at each library that offer period products.

There's like take some leaps on bins there in both of the commuter lounges. There's also bins for the same reason. So find different places that you can get free products. So we're really excited about that. That's been like a recent thing we've been able to put into place. Thank you. And just to fall off, we are, we are in the process of trying to get period products in the residence halls as well.

So that is one of our new projects that we'll hopefully be piloting soon. So definitely check into that soon. I also want to give a shout out because and Emily were able to donate a lot of amazing products. Menstrual products and sexual health products for our sex in the dark program that happened in Towers in February.

Y'all provided amazing kits for us. So we really appreciated those donations. So thank you. Now we're happy to be able to give them to folks and happy that students can utilize those products. Yeah, since are super excited. So just to follow up, I know that you've talked a lot about this already.

You do so much great work in the community as a whole. Can you share just what changes around equity and social justice work you would like to see here in WVU? Well, I, as someone who did not go to WVU, I don't have as much of an intimate knowledge of like what the campus life is like. But I will say from a general standpoint, if we're talking about the menstrual equity work, I would love to see.

Like period products and sexual health and wellness products being more readily available on campus to students and like also staff and other folks that work in WVU. I mean, it's such a huge employer for the city of Morgantown, you know, having access to free products that are absolutely a necessity for folks would be really great.

And having them in, you know, in the bathrooms and these other kinds of like Dropbox locations are great, but I would also love to see them and really like. A lot more accessible places for people as well. And I, again, I would also like to just see more like openness and transparency about like sexual wellness products.

I know. It's so amazing that like y'all were giving out those products to your residents and, and, and I know there's groups on campus that are doing that, but I also know that like, It's kind of hard sometimes for students to access things like free condoms. And we certainly want people to be safe and having safe sex and we should equip them with the things to do that, which means free condoms and free dental dams and free lube.

And so however we can help with that is great, but also County kind of moving towards a culture of less stigma around that on WVU kibitz, I think would be a beautiful thing. Yeah, and to kind of piggyback off that I would love to see it also be a little bit more financially inclusive for folks like college is expensive and I was an out of state.

College students. So I am paying the price for it now, but it's already so expensive. So when students aren't able to make the decisions that they need to make them, that they know that they should be making the healthy decisions about their sex lives or about their bodies, they can't sometimes they can't afford to do this.

So I would love to see kind of what Emily said, have things be more available and more open. And then also that breaks. Stigma. Like people don't have to feel weird about picking up free condoms from the layer. Like if they're offering them for free, get them, like, why are you going to go out of your way to pay for them instead of just grabbing them from somebody.

So I would just love to see a little bit less stigmatization about it and a lot more openness. We like, we know what's happening. Like come on guys. I love it. Thank you guys. Yeah, that was awesome. Thank you both very much. All right. So we always end our TTP episodes at the same question. And actually you mentioned that you were a Bennett resident once upon a time.

So I'm going to ask you both to put yourself back in that mindset and think about our first year students here. So what is one piece of advice that you would like to share with those first-year students who may be listening to this episode today? I would say, get involved and don't be afraid to ask for help.

There's people all over the place that want to help you. And I know it's, nerve-wracking like, I like my voice is shaking. Just even thinking about like how scary it feels, but people are so nice in West Virginia. Like that's one thing that I've always noticed that everyone's literally willing to help you.

No matter what. So there's so many resources around you use them, they're free, they're helping. So make sure that you're getting involved and try not to be so scared. It's okay. It's all gonna be fine. And we're going to make it through, like I said, I did not go to WVU, so I don't know what it's like to live in the Towers.

However, I agree with exam, get involved early. I did not get involved with like many things on my campus when I was in college until like my junior year. And I felt like I was missing out a lot once I started doing that. But also sleep, go to that 8:00 AM class, even if you don't want to, it's not worth family, but get your sleep, drink your water.

Your brain will love you. And thank you for it. I love it. I couldn't agree more. Well, that's a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining this week. And thank you so much Ixya and Emily for your time today. Tune in next week, when my interview, another member of the WVU community.