Free period products are coming to all Kenai Peninsula schools

a period products caddy
Nova Paulk, Haleigh Engle and Chera Wackler install a period product caddy at Soldotna High School. (Riley Board/KDLL)

Chera Wackler arrived at Soldotna High School armed with months’ worth of period products, posters and talking points. First, she met with the school’s principal to go over the plan.

“It’s key to have them inside the restrooms so they’re not having to ask an adult and make that process even more traumatizing,” she said. “If we can meet that need, we’re here.”

Wackler is the founder of the Peninsula Period Network, an organization that started last summer to destigmatize the menstruation experience within schools and expand students’ access to period products. The organization collects the products through direct donations and monetary contributions. Now, it has enough products to install caddies of pads and tampons in schools across the peninsula.

“The goal is to get period products in all 42 schools,” she said.

After checking in with administrators, Wackler met up with the student advocates, the partners within the school who will keep an eye on the bathrooms to make sure products are refilled, and stay in communication with the organization.

SoHi’s advocates are Nova Paulk and Haleigh Engle, who joined Wackler to show her to the most-used student bathrooms. Inside, she showed them how to install the caddies full of tampons and pads, which they attached to the wall with Command tape strips.

The set-up also included a poster, which explains how a lack of access to period products can widen the gender gap in education and suggests ways to donate.

a period products caddy
A caddy installed at Soldotna High School. (Riley Board/KDLL)

The Peninsula Period Network has donation drop boxes across the peninsula, including in most community libraries, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, the Seward Safeway and Nikiski M & M Market, among others. Those locations have boxes where donors can drop off opened boxes of products, as long as they’re individually wrapped.

“So if someone has gone through a situation where they either don’t like a product, or they’re not menstruating, we’re a great place to donate things like that,” Wackler said.

The network also accepts monetary donations, and has gotten larger grants from community organizations and municipal mini grant programs.

At SoHi, Wackler, Paulk and Engle hit three more bathrooms, then the bell goes off. It’s time to change classes.

They head to the nurse’s office, where they’ll keep the bulk boxes of pads and tampons, available whenever the caddies need to be restocked. Paulk and Engle head back to class.

SoHi is the third school Wackler has made it to. If she can put together a network of advocates at every school, she’s planning to have every building in the district stocked by the end of February.

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