Initiated by 12 Torrey Pines High School students, backed with funding from TPHS Foundation and the approval from San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Cheryl James-Ward and TPHS Principal Rob Coppo, Dotstash, a small business based in San Diego, with the mission of destigmatizing menstruation for all individuals who menstruate, unveiled its first free product menstruation hygiene vending machine at Torrey Pines High School (TPHS) April 20, according to a TPHS Foundation news release.
Founder of Dotstash and AB367 coalition member Mona Powell stated, “AB367 is a bill that passed in October 2021. It requires schools to provide free menstrual products to students across California. By expanding access to menstrual products in schools, California can help ensure its students have equal access to education and are empowered to reach their full potential, irrespective of their gender or economic status. Our Period Positive Program is a solution for schools.”
One study found that 1 in 4 girls missed class due to a lack of access to menstrual products and that 1 in 5 reported not being able to afford menstrual products. Understanding the learning disruption and the need for creating more equality, a group of 12 motivated students began their research in November of 2021.
Powell first met with the group to hear about their struggles with accessing menstrual products. She helped them reimagine a better period experience, one that could make menstruators feel supported. After they held several brainstorming and planning meetings, the Dotstash Period Positive Program was born. The program worked to solve two issues: access to better products and destigmatizing the menstruation experiences. Boxes filled with organic cotton tampons, pads, pantyliners, and wipes, were placed out in the open in classrooms and in hallways.
“I think having products more easily available in classrooms is definitely a step in the right direction for having more equality,” student pilot program participant Dixie Wallerius commented.
In January 2022, the students presented the results of the pilot program to the Torrey Pines High School Foundation board and Coppo who voted unanimously in favor of funding and adding the Dotstash Period Positive Program to Torrey Pines High School. The program would add more period product boxes in classrooms and a Dotstash full vending unit in the Learning Commons Building, all free to students.
Powell explained, “The Dotstash vending unit showcases content such as menstrual and reproductive health information, empowering messages, and digital art from the community. While menstruators are accessing quality products they are also feeling supported, a much improved experience for individuals who get their period unexpectedly in public.”
“This was the easiest decision I’ve had to make as principal,” Coppo said. “I’m proud of the students leading this project and happy to be a leader in our county and community.”
James-Ward, who was later presented with the Positive Period Program, was excited and quickly approved the installation of the vending machine at Torrey Pines.
“This is a big day for the students involved. They worked hard volunteering their time researching and presenting their findings to school and district leaders,” said TPHS Foundation Executive Director Zephyr Fletcher. “The comfort and reliability of having hygiene products available is incredibly necessary.”
“I’m so happy to go to a school that has free products for menstruators easily available. I believe it will help people feel comfortable and supported throughout their high school experience,” TPHS student Grace Flanagan commented.
For more information about Dotstash program, contact Mona Powell, email@example.com. To contribute to this program, contact Zephyr Fletcher, torreypinesfoundation.org/contact.
— TPHS Foundation news release