Sophomores raise more than $6K to combat 'period poverty' in Oakland schools

San Mateo high school students, Taylor Davis (left) and Isabella Bartlewski, with the feminine hygiene products they purchased for Oakland girls using money they raised. (Photo provided by Oakland Unified School District)

Two 15-year-old girls from San Mateo went on a fund-raising effort during the pandemic for their sister students across the bay in Oakland, after they discovered a need they could do something about.

Several weeks ago, friends Taylor Davis and Isabella Bartlewski were talking about how expensive feminine hygiene products are and how great the need for them is for many girls at local schools, particularly during the pandemic when many families were, and are still, struggling.

The two sophomore students -- Taylor attends St. Francis High School and Isabella goes to Aragon High School -- decided to start raising money.

"We texted just about every adult we knew and asked them if they would be willing to donate after we explained our cause," the girls said, in a press release issued by the Oakland Unified School District that quoted them together and thanked the girls for their efforts. "It took about a month. It was just the two of us, with help coordinating logistics from our moms."

They raised more than $6,000 to buy 2,600 hygiene kits, which will enhance the supply that Oakland schools are now mandated -- as are high schools statewide -- to provide for their students.

"Feminine hygiene products are overpriced, and not considered to be essential," the girls said. "We spent around a week researching children that we thought might benefit from our donations the most, as we wanted to make sure they did the most good possible."

As a result of their research, Taylor and Isabella decided to donate to Oakland schools.

Skyline High School senior Jessica Ramos, who serves as student director on the district's board of education, was impressed.

"Amazing work," she said. "Especially coming from a student who has worked on ending period poverty, I am excited to see OUSD bathrooms have women's necessities filled. And this effort is one more amazing support for our girls."

Oakland district officials also thanked the San Mateo girls.

"For girls who are hard at work learning and growing, the last thing they should have to worry about in our schools is whether they have the most basic supplies when they need them," said Oakland Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. "I send my deepest appreciations to Taylor and Isabella for the idea they hatched to help our girls and the dedication and generosity they showed to turn it into a reality."