INDIANAPOLIS — School nurses cannot keep up with the demand for tampons and pads needed to keep girls in class, and it's a problem impacting girls and young women across Indiana.
At Southport High School, students said school is sometimes the only place they have access to items that are necessary for their health.
Southport junior Destiny Marly has a lot on her plate as a 17-year-old, and like many girls, her period can become a source of anxiety.
"It's never a girl's fault that she has her period," Marly said. "It happens to everybody and we sometimes don't know when it is going to happen and just like school supplies being important, some families can't afford it. Not knowing if I don't have the products or not is even more stressful."
Thankfully, Destiny and other girls and young women at Southport High School can go their nurse's office if they forget to bring extra pads or tampons to school. Or, if bringing them from home isn't an option.
"I know tampons and pads are very expensive, and I know sometimes people can't afford it and sometimes I can't afford it, so knowing that I can go down there and get free products is really nice," Marly said.
As a nurse at Southport High, Bethany Mendez said the feminine products in her office might be the only ones the school's female students have access to inside or outside school.
"For a girl on her period having a clean pad is the same as having a notebook in class, it's essential for their learning to be able to have the supplies that they need," Mendez said.
When young women don't have the feminine products they need, their education and health can suffer, but handing out extra tampons and pads to every student who needs them is not always an option for school nurses.
"We do not have the funds to do that," Mendez said.
Just this school year, the Perry Township school district has given students 1,200 feminine products. The district's director of nursing services said those products come out of the same budget as all of their clinic supplies, such as thermometers, bandages, disinfectant wipes and first aid kits.
Stretching the budget to cover feminine hygiene products can be a challenge. That's where the group Project Period steps in to help.
"She learned of a problem that some of the schools downtown were having," Jenna Eickman, the president and co-founder of Project Period, said. "They were getting other items donated, but not pads and tampons. So we decided to start our own non-profit. We had no experience but we knew it was something that these girls needed. It's a bigger problem than anyone could have ever imagined."
Coming up Monday on the RTV6 News at 11, we will look at this nonprofit that is making a difference in the lives of young girls. We will dig deeper into the problem and how this small group of Indianapolis women are taking it on to help students.