When Kylie DeFrance became a teacher, she was alarmed by the number of female students (or scholars, as her school calls them) that she'd see missing school because of their periods.
When she realized what was happening, she began using her own money to provide free hygiene products for those who needed them. Kylie hoped that this would increase attendance by at least a little. Instead, what she saw, was a life-altering level of change.
"I've had scholars that were missing school constantly or were disappearing in the bathroom for 30-plus minutes," Kylie said. "Or I've had scholars that say, 'I have to go to the bathroom,' or 'to the office,' and they're gone for half the day."
By providing these students with the products they need, such as pads, tampons, and heating pads, they've been given the chance to excel in ways that weren’t always possible for them.
In fact, one of Kylie's students would disappear in the bathroom for 30 minutes at a time, sometimes five days in a row, every month. Now that she has access to period products, she hasn't disappeared once, and her grade has risen from a "D" to an "A."
"That just goes to show that having your period should not conflict or cause a difficulty with your learning if you're provided with the things that you need to be provided with," she said.
As much as Kylie knew her students needed help accessing these hygiene products, she was shocked by how high the demand was once she started proving them. At one point she was spending over $100 a month.
That's when this eighth-grade teacher had a realization: For many of her students, her classroom was the only place they could get these products, even outside of Austin Achieve, a year-round charter school where over 90% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
"A lot of the scholars go home and they're the parents for their siblings because their parents are at work," she said. "Or maybe their parents can't take them to the store because they're having to choose between food and this."
Not being able to afford basic period supplies like pads and tampons is called "period poverty," and it's a worldwide issue, including in the United States. So, to ensure that her students have what they need, Kylie started creating "pad bags" for them to take home.
But this kind-hearted teacher needed help. After she added the hygiene products her students needed on her classroom’s Amazon wish list, she shared the page on Instagram and Nextdoor, a social networking site for neighborhoods.
Hours later, Kylie said that Amazon boxes with those very products began showing up at her door!
"It blew my mind," she said. "I had never met any of these people. I don't know any of these people, but I had hundreds of boxes at my door."
Thanks to this overwhelming response, she’s been able to upgrade her "pad bags" from plastic sandwich bags to reusable zipper bags. She’s also using the two portable carts she was donated to create "menstruation stations" in her classroom.
Kylie is also expanding her reach — in addition to adding free period products in her own school’s bathrooms, she's been able to provide these products to teachers at other local schools.
In providing these essential health products, Kylie is giving students a better chance at receiving a quality education. But she’s also hoping to encourage more open, healthy conversations around menstruation in general.
"Providing pads and tampons in your classroom should be a new standard," Kylie said. "When a scholar needs a pencil or a bandage the teacher provides it — they don't go to the office to get what they need. Why should a pad or tampon or even heating pad be any different?"
Thank you for all that you do for your students, Kylie!
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