While other seventh graders were just learning about where to place England on a map, WHS senior Kayla Harrison was interested in the more nitty-gritty facts. She questioned her teacher why families of the past had been so much larger. She asked, “did they not have birth control back then? Didn’t they use animal intestines as condoms or something?”
Throughout middle school, she educated herself on safe sex practices and reproductive rights causes by poring over Planned Parenthood articles. Later, in high school, she began to write essays, have more open conversations with her peers, and also encouraged her family to donate to pro-choice organizations she wanted to support.
Kayla believes reproductive health should not be a taboo subject and is open about her personal experience toward becoming educated and empowered about her own birth control options. In 2017, as she witnessed 63 pieces of anti-abortion legislation passed around the country, she began donating to pro-choice organizations and attending protests supporting reproductive rights. She is fascinated by the intersectionality between reproductive rights and racial, gender, and socioeconomic issues. In June 2020, Kayla attended her first Black Lives Matter demonstration and continued to try to stay informed throughout the year. Emboldened by her experiences in advocacy, she started a petition that garnered 6,000 signatures requesting that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) give schools more latitude in choosing what learning model would be best for them, given COVID, since many schools did not have the facilities to safely have students attending at full capacity.
Kayla intends on becoming a gynecologist in future years, specializing in abortion and contraceptive care. In the fall, she will attend Wesleyan University as a feminism, gender and sexuality studies major while following a pre-med track. She wants to empower each of her patients to make safe sexual decisions and “use inclusive language when referring to reproductive health care. Not all women can get pregnant and not all people who can get pregnant are women. Men can get periods, non-binary people can get periods, not all cisgender women can get pregnant nor do all of them get their periods. I really want to stress the importance of inclusion regarding these issues, because if activism excludes certain groups affected by an issue then it is just bigotry.”
Outside of her activism work, Kayla enjoys singing in Winchester High School’s Chamber Singers and Octets and participating in different plays, including last weekend’s performance of Anything Goes. She is also the captain of the Ultimate Frisbee Team.