Highland High School Junior Shreya Golkonda spoke to the Town Board, pointing out that she is part of a class called Citizenship In Action.
“I work on a project for a year to address and tackle an issue in our community and the wold,” she began.
Shreya, who has lived in Highland all her life, said she focused on the topic of Period Inequity, “an issue faced by so many women around the world and almost 16 million right here in the U.S.”
Shreya recalled visits to India during her summer breaks, “and seeing how sheltered the topic was as if secrecy helped your image. You didn’t want to be so open about it but in reality so many women were facing issues on relevant education when it came to the topic and just affordability and access to feminine hygiene products in low-income populations.”
Shreya said as she became older she began to realize that access and affordability to these products was not just a problem overseas but was even an issue here in her hometown. She pointed out that 3,339 represents the number of females in Highland, “who either will, are, or have dealt with periods and in many cases inaccessibility to supplies.” She added that much of the lower income population in Highland and neighboring towns face a “major struggle” when trying to access the needed resources, “and this stops them from being able to proceed in their day to day lives.”
Shreya said her plan is to set up in Highland a dispenser, “with period products available, “stocked just like toilet paper and soap in the public bathrooms, specifically in the Rotary Pavilion and in the Rail Trail bathrooms.” She noted that schools are now required to provide these products for free to students and the cost in the Highland School district is $165 for a box of 250 pads but the cost of 360 Always maxi-pads at BJ’s Wholesale Club is about $40.
Shreya said after speaking with Renee Filette, Executive Director of Dutchess Outreach and with Highland’s custodial department, she found “that the total cost per year would come out to about $65 for the first year and $40 thereafter. She added that period product dispensers can be purchased from Amazon for $120 but plastic bag dispensers cost only $12.74 at Walmart.
“Both of these dispensers would be able to house a variety of products [sizes of pads and tampons] and would be difficult to remove,” she said, adding that she would work with the town to secure funding sources. “I would be willing to host a fundraiser through my class at school, perhaps working with one of our many clubs. I have also spoken with the Highland Rotary who are receptive to the idea and told me that I could return to discuss it further.” She asked the Town Board if they would consider assisting her financially through the town’s budget.
Supervisor Dave Plavchak commended Shreya for taking on this important initiative and bringing it to the attention of the Town Board. Councilman Lenny Auchmoody made a motion to fund Shreya’s project for the first year, “and let her keep going and see how it comes out. I also commend you and I know that your parents are very proud. This is only the beginning because you’re doing this now and in the future you’re going to do bigger things.”
Plavchak favors aiding the project and suggested that the board find out the total costs and maintenance for a year. He addressed Shreya, saying that, “sometimes when we get these ideas they start off flying with volunteers like yourself and then they go away or [people] move away and then they fall apart and they don’t get maintained.” He said after the actual monetary outlay is known then a formal resolution can be drawn up for the next meeting.
Councilwoman Tiffany Rizzo will be working with Shreya to calculate the expenses, along with support from Peter Bellizzi, President of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association.
Rotarian Patricia Mikkelsen said that the students in the class, “have to identify a need in the community and come up with a project and figure out how they’re going to make it happen. Her teacher was very impressed with how much thought she had given it and her courage to take this to the public.”
Highland High School Social Studies Chair and Civic Readiness Coordinator, Christina Saylor, said the class is designed to support her as she works in the Civic Capstone Project. Saylor said Shreya became interested in issues related to period poverty.
“It is a huge issue and I was really struck when she came up with the idea. She was really excited about it because it is something that she has seen because she travels a lot and has been to India where it is really obvious that it’s a problem and it’s definitely a problem around the world,” Saylor said. It’s a stigma and a lot of people are too embarrassed to talk about it.”
Saylor is helping with upwards of 25 student projects as part of the class.
“These kids are really amazing with their bravery and what they’re willing to talk about and bring light to; I feel they’re educating me as much as I am helping them figure out and navigate the process,” she said.
Saylor was impressed with Shreya’s idea to start this in a bathroom in Highland.
“That is so smart, why not make this visible here and the more people see it they will go to other places,” she said.
Saylor was present for Shreya’s presentation to the Lloyd Town Board.
“Shreya is such a phenomenal kid; my heart was just coming out of my chest, I was so proud of her,” Saylor said.