In early December 2017, the Arroyo Rite of Passage class participants began the process of identifying their Community Action Project. The first class discussion centered on selecting the three UDHR Articles they associated most closely with community issues that concerned them.
The result of this discussion is illustrated in this document titled Priority UHDR Articles Selected for Community Action Project & Votes Received.
With Articles 25 and 26 receiving the most votes, we went on to prioritize the issues the students had identified in connection with these Articles, as shown here. The criteria used to prioritize the issues included selecting that which was connected to both Articles 25 and 26, would be something they could readily do something about, and was likely to have an impact on a significant number of people.
The top priority issue for all the students was outlined as follows:
- Provide more access to free feminine hygiene products.
- Provide information about natural body development, i.e. menstruation
- Let teachers know how to better communicate about personal needs of women
The class discussion about this issue pointed out how many girls felt embarrassed or ashamed about their periods, which was made worse when teachers would challenge their requests to leave class to get to a restroom. Additionally, there were only two feminine hygiene product dispensers across the school, which were old and usually empty.
The next step in the process was to outline the Project objectives, identify the information that was needed, along with the next steps, which is shown on this document.
In January, 2018, special guest Helynna Brooke, who founded the Red Web Foundation, provided the students a great deal of information about healthy feminine hygiene products, websites of programs across the country working on similar issues and other helpful points. Of particular help was the fact that California Assembly Bill 10 had gone into effect in January 2018, mandating that school districts provide free feminine hygiene products to students in schools that meet the 40% poverty ratio, which includes Arroyo High School.
With Assembly Bill 10 in place, the students could focus more on arranging for distribution of the products as well as creating information that would be of help to other students and teachers.
The next steps that took place included developing and implementing a survey of both teachers and students to guide the type of information to provide. Fifty teachers and 477 students completed the survey.
Jorja Santillan, the Rite of Passage Lead Teacher, worked with the students and the school district to arrange for feminine hygiene products to be delivered right away, even if dispensers were not installed.
The students decorated 12 boxes to hold the products, met with classes, whose teachers agreed to have the boxes in place, to explain the project, prepared flyers to be distributed across the school to show which classrooms would have the boxes, then delivered the boxes on Monday, April 23rd. Lead Teacher Jorja Santillan notes, “The boxes were decorated to get attention and embrace the beauty of menstruation by having them in easily accessible, visible areas, instead of hiding them in drawers or closets. Students can go into a room and more easily pick up products without being forced to ask. In my room, it’s created positive dialogue with students about menstruation, appreciating the project with its motto and beauty.”
Flyers were posted throughout the school. With the boxes of products delivered, along with a process for maintaining their supplies, the students went on to design a poster to convey the information that will help students and teachers value menstruation as a natural part of human development and understand how to better support students.
Here are the Radical-Red-Poster-Messages the students outlined. Jorja Santillan explains how the motto “Natural Beauty is In Our Blood” was developed: “ We brainstormed key words or phrases that reflected menstruation as positive and valued. Based on those ideas, we wove them together into the motto itself.” Below is the beautiful poster designed by ROP participant, Emma Purves.
This project is already benefiting students at Arroyo High School, and the Rite of Passage participants are filled with a sense of pride and satisfaction about what they have already accomplished, realizing their efforts will continue to be of benefit for years to come.