Empowering Futures: The Lotus Initiative’s Inaugural Summer Program in Collaboration with the Period Education Project

by Apr 4, 2024Community Partner Stories

Kayla Shine, Period Pro from The Medical University of South Carolina


Kayla Shine, Period Pro

Medical University of South Carolina’s Chief Period Pro, Kayla Shine serves as the team lead for a grant-funded community engagement program, entitled “The Lotus Initiative.” The team members include MUSC Period Pros: Kelly Rutherford (MS4), Brogan Brown (MS3), and Olivia Kinsinger (MS3). The Lotus Initiative serves Horizons at Ashley Hall, a community-centered education program serving female elementary and middle school students from the greater Charleston Area. The program’s name draws from the lotus flower’s ability to evolve into a blossom through murky water – which is a robust metaphor for the transformative potential of reproductive health. 

The Lotus Initiative addresses identified knowledge gaps and educational exposure to comprehensive reproductive health such as: menstrual health, sexual health, and safe relationship education. It aims to reduce menstrual stigma and improve access to safe period protection through the provision of community-centered education. Identifying the three key target areas led to the structure of this initiative being developed into three phases. Grant funding and dedication from medical students, healthcare providers, and community organizations have allowed for this program to be successful during the first year. 


Phase One (2023): Menstrual Health Education with the Period Education Project™ 

Menstrual health equity has become a prevalent public health and community health concern that often benefits from clinical-community linkages. Clinical-community linkages, such as the partnership with the Period Education Project™, aim to improve access to menstrual education and improve reproductive outcomes. The Leadership for Horizons at Ashley Hall identified the lack of access to menstrual education from the Greater Charleston area public school system. As the team of Period Pros initially met with the leaders representing Horizons at Ashley Hall, they described the lack of education as a “blanket of shame” and reported that many girls within the program did not have access to menstrual supplies while at school and many feared menstruation upon the onset of menses.

The inception of this program stemmed from addressing the needs of a local community organization while continuing to enhance the mission of the Period Education Project. The first phase of the Lotus Initiative occurred during the Summer of 2023 and consisted of facilitating weekly PEP rallies over the course of three weeks. The sessions were split into two teams of Period Pros who worked with select grades. Team 1 worked with grades 6-7 and was led by Shine and Rutherford. Team 2 worked with grades 4-5 and was led by Brown and Kinsinger. After the third PEP Rally, each team provided period packages for each participant which included a period hygiene bag, pads, tampons, and a period journal, “My First Period Journal.” An integral part of concluding a series of PEP rallies includes giving participants a post-session survey to evaluate knowledge gained from the curriculum, which yielded both positive feedback and quantitative data supporting the impact of menstrual health community education. The findings for the first phase will be shared as an accepted oral presentation at the NASPAG Conference in April 2024, entitled “The Lotus Initiative: Community Collaboration for Menstrual Education & Equity.”



PEP Rally Conducted by Pro’s and gift bags with period essentials!


Phase Two (2024): Menstrual Health Education with the Period Education Project™ and Sexual Health Education adapted from the ACOG DC Teen Promise Project 

NASPAG, North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, asserts that comprehensive sexuality education is vital to improving the physical and reproductive health of adolescents worldwide while also promoting the development of self-esteem and healthy interpersonal relationships. In agreement with this stance from NASPAG, the leadership for Horizons at Ashley Hall also identified a need for the provision of comprehensive age-appropriate sexual health education to the youth served by this program. The second phase of the Lotus Initiative marks a pivotal step towards fostering a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to adolescent well-being. This program’s second phase involves a strategic partnership with the ACOG DC Teen Promise Project, aiming to deliver thorough sexual health education to empower young individuals. Joining forces with the DC Teen Promise Project will provide a holistic understanding of reproductive health, emphasizing the importance of informed decision-making, consent, and responsible behavior. This collaborative effort represents a commitment to equipping teenagers with the knowledge and skills necessary for navigating their reproductive health confidently. Through engaging workshops, expert-led sessions, and open discussions, the second phase seeks to create a supportive and informative environment, fostering a generation of youth who are well-informed, empowered, and capable of making informed choices regarding their sexual health. 

The Lotus Initiative in collaboration with the Period Education Project™ stands as a testament to the power of community health education and the importance of compassionate healthcare providers to positively impact youth in the communities that we serve. By addressing the often overlooked aspects of menstrual health, period poverty, and menstrual inequities, this program has sown seeds for a future where youth are not only well-informed but also empowered to break free from societal taboos surrounding menstruation. As we have been intentional in developing a sustainable foundation for this program, we hope that there will be a continued impact on youth within the Charleston area for many years to come.