“Be brave enough to start conversations that matter” says a big blue sign on a menstrual hygiene display. The sign, and books about adolescent health, are sitting on tables at Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska. Colony, along with the other schools in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School District, is on a mission to open that conversation up.

Eleven high, middle, and junior high schools are collaborating in a campaign called No More Mat-Su, which is aimed at ending dating violence and sexual assault. The group’s current project, a menstrual products drive, arose after group members spoke with local shelters and support groups about what women and other people in fragile situations needed most.

The students realized how much of a financial burden menstrual products could be on those who need them. Estimates vary, but surveys suggest the cost is between $65 and $150 yearly. People who can’t afford that may choose to go without, which can have serious health and social consequences. They also realized that stigma about the topic can keep people from asking for aid, so they decided to seek donations of money and products to help supply those shelters, as well as to distribute to low-income families in the area.

“It also not only affects [the people] who need the tampons or pads but if it leads to health problems it can affect their families and how they care for them or are involved with them,” said Tyler Eldridge, a junior at Colony High and one of the leaders of the campaign.

The schools involved are:

  • Colony Middle and High Schools
  • Houston Middle and High Schools
  • Mat-Su Career and Tech High School
  • Palmer Junior Middle and High Schools
  • Redington Sr. Junior/Senior High School
  • Teeland Middle School
  • Wasilla Middle and High Schools

Readers in the Mat-Su area can donate products or funds at the front offices of any of the above through November 19, and they will be very much appreciated.

There is an increasing drive to get schools to provide free menstrual products in student bathrooms, too. According to the website Free the Tampons, only four U.S. states—New Hampshire, New York, Illinois, and California—mandate free menstrual products for students. In the Canadian province of British Columbia, which neighbors Alaska, an April 5, 2019, ministerial order required schools to provide free menstrual products in student bathrooms. We hope the Mat-Su students take this issue on as well, in order to help their lower-income schoolmates.

Photo by Hadrian / Shutterstock.com