Two students are working to remove stigmas and increase accessibility to menstrual products at Pueblo County High School.
Starting in January, Jade Moore and Aalia Renteria worked with PCHS administrators to install six machines that dispense pads and tampons for free throughout the school. The products are distributed by Aunt Flow, an Ohio-based company that supplies free menstrual products to schools and businesses across the nation.
"The products also don't contain any harmful chemicals like other companies do," Renteria said. "They make their own products and that is also what we were looking for, because you don't want to give girls bad products that have chemicals and dyes in them."
Before presenting the idea to school administration, Moore and Renteria conducted research to determine the needs their school population. They found that over half of PCHS students needed menstrual products and when products were needed was not always predictable.
"We presented it to the admin and they were great," Moore said. "They found it in their budget, and once we brought it to them, it was like, 'Wow, why is this not happening?'... No one really thought about it until someone said something."
Prior to Moore and Renteria's initiative, some restrooms in the school did have menstrual product dispensers, but students had to pay. Students also could visit the office or a school nurse to ask for menstrual products, but Moore and Renteria wanted to ensure products were as accessible as other hygiene items, like soap and toilet paper.
Dispensers are installed in each wing of the the building, inside five restrooms and a locker room. They were strategically placed so students would not have to travel more than a minute to reach the nearest dispenser.
"We thought that we were doing what needs to be done," said Erin Lewin, PCHS assistant principal. "I don't think that we were failing at it, I just don't think we were completely aware that there was a stigma associated with having to ask a friend or go to ask a teacher and not being prepared. Now that stigma is gone, and it's just readily available free of cost."
Moore is a junior at PCHS, but Renteria, also a junior, has transferred to another high school after moving to Monument. However, the two close friends remain invested in PCHS and the surrounding community. They have plans to expand their initiative to PCHS's two feeder middle schools, Vineland Middle School and Pleasant View Middle School.
"I definitely feel like the middle schools have more stigma amongst them because they are just growing up girls," Renteria said. "I feel like that would be our main concern, just making those girls feel comfortable."
Lewin, who also serves as PCHS's point of contact with the Aunt Flow company, hopes to continue the program at the high school and its feeder schools, even after Moore and Renteria graduate from high school in 2024.
"I hope that after we graduate, it's something that we leave behind," Moore said. "Girls aren't going to know who we are, but they are going to know that they have their products."
Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Free menstrual products coming to Pueblo high school thanks to students