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Student Keeps Free Feminine Hygiene Products Initiative Flowing
Full-time, first generation NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) student and mother, Ronlisha (Ronnie) Nichols, has taken on a new initiative on campus – free feminine hygiene products or what she likes to call, menstrual equality.
“This is an initiative that I feel strongly about; I really felt like I needed to do something,” said Ronnie. “Some schools give out free condoms, why can’t we give out free hygiene products?”
When working at the information desk in the college’s student center, Ronnie quickly noticed numerous students stopping by on their way to the restroom and inquiring about menstrual products, as there were no dispensers in the bathroom. She would direct them to the stores on the main floor of the student center, but many found the price to be an obstacle and would choose to drive home, not return, and miss class.
“Students were embarrassed and missing out on their education. That’s not right,” Ronnie explained.
Ronnie began working on a proposal for the initiative and brought it to her fellow Student Ambassador and Government Association (SAGA) members. Many could relate to the inconvenience of being without a sanitary pad or tampon, having to walk across campus to the student center to purchase a box, and then leaving because they couldn’t afford the cost.
“These products are expensive, but they are as much of a necessity as toilet paper,” Ronnie said.
SAGA got onboard and together, they began working on a proposal for Ronnie to present to the NWACC cabinet. Meanwhile, Ronnie brought up her concerns with staff and faculty and many began bringing her menstrual product donations. Students who participate in the Service Learning Women’s Project, which often holds menstrual product drives to help supply the needs of homeless and financially marginalized women, also wanted to help support Ronnie’s mission.
“They showed up one day at my desk with garbage bags full of product!” she said.
With numerous donations, Ronnie came up with a temporary solution that would make it easier for students to access free products. She stocks a number of women’s bathrooms around campus with free sanitary pads and tampons. For those throughout Burns Hall and the Student Center, it is a ticket system. Students can take a blue or white ticket from the bathroom and bring it to the science department administrator or the student center information desk and receive a product.
After further research, Ronnie was able to present a proposal to cabinet and explain the importance of making menstrual products more accessible to students. Her proposal consisted of having a product dispenser in 40 women’s bathrooms around campus that would supply donated sanitary pads and tampons at no cost.
“Feminine products are essential for the management of menstruation, not a luxury, and key to female student success while menstruation is occurring,” Ronnie wrote in the proposal. “One in five low- income women report missing school, work or similar events due to a lack of access to menstrual supplies.”
Ronnie feels hopeful that the college will soon have dispensers with free products. “The cabinet was totally on board. They thought it was an excellent idea,” she said. “We are working on the budgeting process now, but I think we’ll be able to install the dispensers.”
Ronnie’s dedication to helping students doesn’t go unnoticed. In addition to her free feminine hygiene products initiative, she’s also involved in operating the college’s food pantry.
“Through Ronnie’s work in the Student Information Center, I have seen her compassion and kindness as she works with students coming in for the food pantry and any other assistance. She treats every student she encounters with respect and kindness and makes sure that they get what they need,” said NWACC Associate Director of Student Life Danielle Schader.
Due to Ronnie’s involvement on campus and in the community and her commitment to her educational goals, as well as her personal and professional development, she was recently nominated for the Golden Eagle Award by NWACC staff Danielle Schader, Becky Hudson and Susan Parker.
“Ronlisha is deserving of this award because of the overwhelming dedication she has for NWACC. She brings knowledge, enthusiasm, encouragement and leadership to everything she does in and out of the classroom,” said Susan.
“I am honored to work with this outstanding student and feel confident that she is very deserving of such recognition for her involvement and representation of NWACC both on and off campus,” added Danielle.
NWACC students who are nominated for the Golden Eagle Award must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average and demonstrate a commitment to education, social awareness and personal development and be involved in varied activities.
Golden Eagle Award recipients, like Ronnie, receive a certificate of recognition and a $100 check from the NWACC Foundation at the NWACC Board of Trustees meetings. Monthly recipients of the award may become eligible for consideration as the College’s Distinguished Golden Eagle Award, an honor presented annually that includes additional scholarship money.
“It is an honor for me to know that someone deemed me worthy of this award. I try to treat people how I would want to be treated. I try to pay it forward as much as possible. It doesn’t cost a thang to say hello and to be kind,” said Ronnie.
What to donate menstrual products? Anyone and everyone can donate. Simply drop off products at the student information desk or give them directly to Becky Hudson in the Student Center, room 225H.