Going With the Flow

Go+With+the+Flow+holds+its+kickoff+event%2C+packaging+bags+with+menstrual+hygiene+products+to+be+distributed+at+the+State+College+Area+High+School+on+Sep.+27%2C+2019.

Photo/Auden Yurman

Go With the Flow holds its kickoff event, packaging bags with menstrual hygiene products to be distributed at the State College Area High School on Sep. 27, 2019.

Adrita Talukder, Newspaper Editor in Chief

In the fall of 2019, senior Isabelle Snyder raised a question in regards to the accessibility of menstrual hygiene products within the SCASD community: What if, because of your gender identity, presentation, or comfort level, you were unable to use the female restrooms? What if you could use dispensers during school hours,  but financial hardship or an unsafe home environment limited access to menstrual hygiene products outside of school? What if you were a young menstruator, and attended middle or elementary school? Snyder recognized that there was an often overlooked community in need of accessible menstrual hygiene products, and so she set out to address these needs and do her part in starting a movement within her community.  

Snyder has been an active advocate for accessible menstrual hygiene products since her sophomore year, when she, alongside fellow Student Government members, advocated for the installation of free menstrual hygiene product dispensers in female restrooms at State High. After numerous conversations and negotiations with administrators, the students succeeded in their initial goal. However, Snyder found that despite their success, there was still work to do. 

“In conversations with my board and Mr. Merritt, we sort of started to think about [how] we now have these amazing dispensers—which is so exciting—but really, that only covers like a tiny fraction of the population who need these products,” Snyder said. “As I continued to be involved with Student Government, I think I realized this is more of a community and a district problem than it is a school-specific problem.”

Snyder continued her work the summer of her junior year when the idea of Go With the Flow came to her. Determined to make menstrual hygiene products accessible to students at SCAHS regardless of their identity, Snyder launched her organization through a kick-off event, where she invited students, administrators, faculty, and a number of community members to package menstrual hygiene products and get them ready for distribution. 

While the kick-off event was a success, as Snyder continued to distribute bags, she realized that the need for accessible menstrual hygiene products went far beyond SCAHS.

“The thing is, once you kind of start delivering the bags, you realize there are so many schools in our district and so many students in need,” Snyder said. “So if we’re doing this at State High, that means we also need to make sure we’re hitting [gender-neutral] bathrooms at State High, and that also means we need Delta, and Delta middle, and then we need the middle schools, and so it sort of keeps going and going like that.”

From its start in the fall of 2019, the organization has expanded. Go With the Flow bags, which each consist of three pads and three tampons, are available not only at SCAHS, but at Delta middle and high school, Mount Nittany Middle School, and Spring Creek Elementary. Excess bags are occasionally given to community spaces, such as Out of the Cold and the State College LGBTQ+ Alliance. 

While there are currently bags in a number of schools, Snyder noted that the biggest source of bag distribution has been the distanced school lunch pick up, which formed out of community need during the pandemic. 

“With the district lunch pick up, we were now able to essentially provide Go With the Flow bags to any family in need, even if our bags weren’t originally in their schools, or if we didn’t have a pre-established relationship with the principal or with their administrative team,” Snyder said. 

Snyder estimates that since its founding, Go With the Flow has distributed roughly 3000 bags, with around 150-200 bags going every month to lunch pick-ups. The past year has lent itself to exponential growth for the organization, which has invited questions about further expansion. There are a number of goals the group is looking at, such as making Go With the Flow bags available across all district schools, becoming a district activity, and continuing community education about periods and menstrual hygiene. 

Education is a key goal the organization wants to focus on in the future. Snyder commented on the necessity of period education in order to both normalize the diverse experiences that menstruators have and let them know they’re not alone.

“That’s been a big goal for Go With the Flow, is to kind of decrease the level that these issues are taboo or that we’re just kind of expecting students to quietly deal with them themselves,” Snyder said. “Everyone you know has a period or exists because periods exist, so really, this is a major thing—it’s just like toilet paper. By pretending that it doesn’t exist or pretending that it’s shameful, or pretending that all it is is a painful thing you have to deal with your whole life, it’s unfair to everyone who’s getting a period and it’s honestly unfair to those who aren’t getting periods and who are being allowed to kind of exist where periods aren’t a thing. […] If we can just bring a little bit of comfort and security to this process, I think that’s really important.”

Snyder will be graduating this spring, and through her involvement in Go With the Flow, there has been one big lesson she’s learned.

“The best gift you can give an organization or give anything is making it sustainable and making it able to keep going beyond you, and that you know, really, at the end of the day, ownership and who has power and all that, it really doesn’t need to matter as much as our brains and our hearts sometimes make us think that it matters,” Snyder said. 

This fall, Snyder plans on handing off the reins of Go With the Flow to sophomore Miriam Ruback and rising freshman Ava Krebs, current members of Go With the Flow who have a number of ideas to continue to expand the program. 

“We want to expand to every school. Currently, we’re not, we’re only in a couple, so we want to expand to every school in our district. We also want to set up a line of connections throughout all the schools to make sure that all of the products are stocked. Looking at events, we’ll continue the packing events, and then we’re also looking to make connections, expand our funding, and expand ultimately to every school,” Ruback said. 

Krebs spoke on the impact Go With the Flow had on her, more specifically how it showed her menstruation wasn’t shameful—something that she had been told her whole life. 

“We’re taught to kind of hide menstruation and that type of discussion with the world. It’s kind of a shameful thing, society has taught us. But throughout this, I’ve grown to realize that it’s completely normal and natural and now, it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about, because I think the world is in a place where we really need to increase education about menstruation and I feel very passionate about this topic now and comfortable discussing this. It has been very empowering,” Krebs shared. 

With Krebs and Ruback set to take over Go With the Flow this coming fall, the organization is set to continue for years to come. What started as a simple idea has since transformed into an organization that has had a direct impact on the lives of community members. Donations are key in sustaining the work Go With the Flow does. Interested parties can make monetary donations through @Isabelle-Snyder-2 on Venmo and set up supply donations by emailing [email protected]

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