In pursuit of a Girl Scouts award for making a difference in their community, three students from San Lorenzo are determined to help peers gain confidence and avoid embarrassment as they cross a threshold of puberty.
The girls aim to improve availability of menstrual products at elementary, middle and high schools and promote menstruation awareness among students of all genders. They began their project in January after brainstorming ideas that would meet criteria for the Girl Scouts' Silver Award: local, impactful and sustainable. The service award is the highest honor for their current rank as Cadettes.
“We wanted to find stuff in our community we wanted to change,” said Samantha O’Brien, an eighth-grader from San Lorenzo who attends Anthony Ochoa Middle School in Hayward. “Something I really noticed, both at my elementary school and at my middle school, is that there’s a large stigma around having a period. So, I’m like, ‘Oh, we should do this for our award to inform our community that it’s not a gross thing, it’s a natural thing.’”
“We all really liked that idea and related to it, so we built it off of that,” said Mariah Main, who along with the third team member, Haylee Ijames, is a ninth-grader at Arroyo High School in the San Lorenzo Unified School District. (Left to right in photo: Ijames, Main and O'Brien)
All longtime members of Troop 33811 in San Lorenzo, the girls have assembled “Period Packs” to assist students just starting to menstruate, while also discouraging vandalism of menstrual product dispensers in school restrooms and raising money for new pad and tampon dispensers within individual stalls. In addition, they have created a website, mybodymyperiod.com, to help newly menstruating students connect with resources and provide factual information to all, boys included. The site even includes a Google form so visitors can ask questions and receive a response from the Girl Scouts.
“If this is their first time, they can go there and see, ‘Oh, this is where I need to go for help,’” Ijames said.
The Period Packs are intended to be kept in school offices, where students can request them from staff if caught unprepared. The packs include a reusable bag, two sanitary napkins, flushable wipes, underwear, a sealable plastic bag, an informational flyer, fun stickers and messages of encouragement. The girls also will provide leggings to school office staff in case a student needs a change of clothing.
To counter a problem with some students vandalizing hygiene-product dispensers in secondary school restrooms and destroying pads and tampons, the girls are working with Diana Maravilla, SLZUSD health and wellness coordinator, to print bright blue stickers for the dispensers that say, “Menstrual products should not be wasted, PERIOD.” The stickers (draft design shown) will be added this fall.
Over the longer term, the Girl Scouts hope to share their success with other troops and encourage school districts to send informational flyers to families about the help that’s available.
“One of the aspects of this project was to inspire other girls, so they feel like they can do something about the issues they see in their community,” Main said.
Added Ijames, “It also helps us develop problem-solving skills, so when we see things going on at school, we can involve other people. It’s also brought us closer to each other.”
Once the girls have submitted their report by a Sept. 30 deadline, Girl Scouts of Northern California will determine whether they qualify for the Silver Award. They also will present their work in person to the local Dos Pueblos Service Unit Board in October. If they are successful, they will receive their pins at a ceremony in June.