PHOTO: Members of the WCS student advisory board who recently helped load feminine hygiene product from a warehouse include (top row, left to right) Landon Hale, Hunter Jones, Jose Guevara, Matthew Koshy, Danny Jackson, (bottom row, left to right) Madison Smith, Maggie Collins, Amelia Doyle, Francisca Savarino and Elizabeth Bulay. / Photo submitted
By JOHN McBRYDE
While a group of students from high schools in the Williamson County Schools district experienced the benefits of serving their community through a special project they had undertaken, they also had the opportunity to learn another valuable lesson: collaboration.
It came when the teens on the WCS student advisory board ran into a roadblock of sorts with their service project for the 2018-19 school year. The project was related to feminine hygiene products and their lack of availability in the county’s high schools. That need prompted the students to develop a plan to raise money to place dispensers in each of the district’s 10 high schools so girls would have access to free hygiene products such as tampons and pads. They stressed that these items should be as readily available as toilet paper.
Funding for the dispensers came from each of the school’s PTO, but three of the schools weren’t able to meet the funding required. That’s when the student advisory board was able to collaborate with the nonprofit known as NOOK that was established in 2017 by the Franklin Special School District.
As a result, a stalled service project that would help provide needs for high school students broadened to include girls in the county’s 11 middle schools. By late April, 10 students from the advisory board were at a warehouse placing feminine hygiene products into bins that would be delivered to nurses at the middle schools.
It was a win-win situation, according to one of the main organizers of the project.
“It was really exciting that we could expand the project, because one of the arguments about having the dispensers at the high schools was, we [at first] had nothing for the middle schools,” said Jose Guevara, a senior at Franklin High School. “It was really good to engage with NOOK. It was awesome.”
NOOK (Needs of Our Kids) is sponsored by the PTO’s of the eight schools in FSSD. The organization works with school counselors and provides new clothing for students on an on-call basis. NOOK also has on hand other items stored in a warehouse operated by One Generation Away, a nonprofit that provides food and meals to those in need throughout Middle Tennessee and in three other states.
Among the additional items NOOK has on hand are feminine hygiene products. The high school students met with leaders of NOOK to see if the nonprofit could help fund the remaining dispensers.
“While they weren’t able to provide money for the dispensers, they really encouraged us and gave us the idea to work in the middle schools as well,” said Sally Shadrach, a senior at Franklin High who graduated in December. “NOOK was able to provide all the products for the middle schools.”
In addition to Guevara and Shadrach, Matthew Koshy is also a leader on the student advisory board. The group is sponsored by Erin Cáceres, WCS special projects manager.
Students on the advisory board “have arranged to fund product dispensers for our high schools and provide additional products for our middle schools,” Cáceres said. “We are proud of them for this initiative and look forward to them continuing to put this plan into action.”
That is, indeed, the goal, according to NOOK’s director of communications, Elizabeth Bledsoe.
“[The current students] can’t guarantee what’s going to happen, but we’re hoping that the new ones that come on [the 2019-20 advisory board] would continue to handle it,” Bledsoe said. “We hope they’ll just keep in contact with the nurse, and then if they need more supplies, then they could contact NOOK and we could meet with them at the warehouse.”