Thoughts From Period Pros: Girls Inc. of NYC PEP Rally

by May 20, 2024Blog, Community Partner Stories, Period Pros in the Field

Kennedi Scales, Head Writing Intern


In March 2024, Girls inc. of New York City hosted the annual Elevate Her Essence Conference in Brooklyn, New York. Around 1,200 middle school and high school girls from over 100 schools across all five boroughs attended the conference to participate in workshops and seminars run by various organizations that focus on physical and mental wellness. The Period Education Project was among these organizations, and they put on an exciting PEP Rally. A PEP rally is a menstrual health workshop in which medical students (Period Pros) engage and interact with youth to discuss menstrual cycle basics  and anatomy. They discuss what is normal and abnormal, safety, and stigma surrounding menstrual health. 

PEP Team and Period Pro’s

There were four Period Pros in attendance: Suvitha, Rachel, and Paisley who are all in their first year in medical school at Loyola University in Chicago, and Kayla who graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in May and will soon begin her residency at Emory in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

At the PEP table, youth participants were invited to spin a wheel that would determine which activity they took part in. “Normal or Not” functioned as a “did you know” activity, simulating symptoms and product usage to assess what is considered normal and what is considered abnormal in menstruation. One question posed to the youth asked whether it was normal to use a tampon with your first period, and many responded “no.” In many cultures, products like tampons are stigmatized because they are seen as related to virginity and other aspects of sexual health. Thus, many people grow up avoiding tampons because they are taught it’s not for them until a certain age. 

Suvitha shared that she was learning how to interact with people who have diverse beliefs; communicating accurate information while respecting them by saying something like “it is normal, but it is up to you to decide.” The majority of people expressed they only used pads, and many were hesitant to have a conversation about other options out there. “Being able to see the menstrual cup and the tampons is helpful because so many people had no concept of why they might choose another method,” Paisley remarked. Seeing these products and walking through how to use them allowed for stigma reduction to happen right in front of the Period Pros. Dr. Kayla Shine performed 30-40 demonstrations on proper tampon use with the Girlology™ vulva puppet, and “the girls were very shy and reserved, had never seen it, but after just a few minutes were comfortable.”

As the day went by, the Period Pros witnessed a gradual increase in comfort discussing menstrual health. They saw a shift of confidence in the girls who came at the beginning and were more shy and then circled back with eager questions. “Knowing that they had so many questions, they blossomed in such a short period of time,” was an especially rewarding aspect of this PEP rally. There was one activity in particular, in which each of the youth participants had the opportunity to “Tell Your Truth” by sharing something that they loved about their body on a Post-It note and sticking it up on a wall. By the end of the day, the wall was covered in uplifting messages. “Traditionally women have been critiqued on their bodies because they have been culturally unacceptable, but the fact that these young women could see beauty in their bodies brought me to tears,” Rachel shared. 

All of our Period Pros shared how these experiences had clear impacts on the participating youth, but the experiences also were shaping their own future professional lives and giving them new perspectives about how they might approach menstrual health with future patients. Suvitha shared that she “love[s] that we are working with young people, and it’s really cool being able to talk to someone who has not gotten their period or is just starting out and being able to dispel some inaccuracy.”

Each Period Pro shared how inspired they felt by this role, and how it has strengthened their desire to become physicians. “At the very least, if we could teach one girl about their body then that is a success,” Rachel remarks. The opportunity to dispel stigma and even challenge their own preconceived notions about menstrual health felt rewarding. Paisley shared that “there is such a void of information that is medically accurate, empowering and stigma free, and being able to be that person that can tell you that your body is normal is really incredible.”

With the help of sponsorship from P&G, over 6000 period products had been given out to students, and even teachers and school nurses for redistribution, by the end of the presentation. The PEP rally was an overwhelming success and we are so proud of our Period Pros!