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Dayton STEM Students To Testify At Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Statehouse
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Jennifer Helton’s son, Matthew, has multiple disabilities. Caring for him can be challenging—and it got more challenging about 10 years ago, when he outgrew the infant changing stations at many public facilities.

"When we're out, if he needs changed I have to do it on the floor of our van, kind of out there in the open," said Helton. "And the bigger he gets the harder it is to do that and that limits us in where we can go and what we can do.”

Helton, who works at the Dayton STEM School, asked her co-worker Meghan Durkee for advice. Durkee, who teaches government, took the problem to her students, which is how "Matthew's Law" was born.

“We pitched this idea of the students learning how legislation is passed and also going along with our Ohio government standards really allow for campaigning and lobbying and civic responsibility,” said Durkee.

Since January, STEM students have been raising awareness of their project through social media; they created a FaceBook page and launched a website.

Other research on how they might help families like the Helton's have culminated in drafting a legislative bill that calls for any new public structures to include adult changing stations in family restrooms. They found a sponsor, State Senator Peggy Lehner, who recently introduced "Matthew's Law" as Senate Bill 343.

Senior David Sills has been working on the project since last school year.

Sills says the project "has allowed me to see that, you know, I can make a difference, that you can get something done if you try hard enough. This bill would affect tens of thousands of Ohioans—not only them, but their families and make the quality of life a little better for them.”

Sills and more than 30 other STEM students are traveling to the Ohio statehouse Tuesday to testify on Matthew's Law in front of a senate sub-committee.