By Sophia DeLuca, PEP Blog Editor
A group of middle school aged girls stood huddled in a circle looking at and talking about a pamphlet on periods.
Second-year medical students from the University of Central Florida (UCF), Dana Thiesfeldt and Maggie Hybl, watched from their table in the Girls on the Run Race Village, in Orlando, FL. Dana and Maggie are part of a team of Period Pros, working to educate young people about menstruation with the Period Education Project (PEP).
On that day, January 21, 2023, Dana and Maggie, and two other period pros arrived at the Girls on the Run 5K race at 6am wearing scrubs, and equipped with a vulva puppet and the same pamphlets the girls were discussing. Before and after the race, the Period Pros talked to young girls and their parents about PEP and about their periods.
While both Maggie and Dana have worked with PEP for over a year, the Girls on the Run event was a different educational format than they are used to. Typically, Period Pros lead “PEP rallies” menstrual education programs presented at schools or community organizations.
“At PEP rallies you have more time to talk to the girls as individuals…You have more time to teach. This is more of getting the name of PEP out there and letting people know this is a resource with good information… it is valuable in a different way,” said Dana.
While there was less time for questions from individual girls, the event allowed for connection with a new audience: parents. Normally, PEP rallies are only for young people, but many parents were with their daughters at the Girls on the Run event. For Maggie, this connection to parents is essential: “so much of fear and anxiety can come from your parents. If they’re scared to talk about [menstruation], or if they don’t know about it themselves.”
Maggie also saw parents using the PEP materials to remind their kids of conversations they’d already had about menstruation at home: “It was interesting to see how other moms approach menstrual health. Like ‘Oh, you see these girls here…We have talked about this already, but ask them any questions that you have.”
Whether through conversations that happened at the PEP table or menstrual education by providing
resources that can be used by parents to help educate young people, the Period Pro team helped to empower girls with knowledge. Like PEP, Girls on the Run aims to empower young girls. Their mission statement reads: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”
Dana sees the work of Girls on the Run and PEP as collaborative: “[Girls on the Run and PEP] have a very paired mission. The idea of
empowerment through knowledge and empowerment through sports and exercise are well matched.”