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Local students raise awareness in GPS program

By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Folsom High School’s Global Perspective Studies program (GPS) helps students enhance their learning opportunities to better meet the challenges of life in a changing world. Jasmine Kang and her group, including Aika Msechu and Vivian Hoang, have grasped those challenges.

For their senior year project, the three friends had to focus on an organization that reflects an issue going on in the world that they want to make a difference in. Kang and her group chose UPENDO Women’s Foundation, whose vision is for every girl and woman in the world to have ready feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education.

“We do it as a group for our final project. While it is a group effort, it is an individual journey in finding our interests in the world,” Kang said.

For their project, they wanted to implement overall hygiene for the young women of Africa.

After throwing ideas around, Kang and her group decided to do an underwear drive as well as make a how-to booklet for girls to use to keep themselves clean.

“I emailed the founder of UPENDO, Njeri Thubei, and introduced our project to her. I asked her what their needs are. She said they are dealing with the issue of a lot of girls not having enough underwear,” Kang said. “We set up a box at Kaiser so people can drop off clean, unused underwear at anytime.”

Kang said the boxes were only put out recently and already, people have been donating.

The group's mentor, Alyson Newe, an employee at Kaiser, allowed Kang to shadow her on the job to help learn more about women’s health and menstrual hygiene.

“Being a women’s health provider and having worked directly as a women’s health provider in third world countries from my 21 years in the Navy, I am a huge supporter of women’s health and passionate to be able to educate women about their health and how to improve it,” Newe said. “I also am passionate about women’s rights and the ability to have equal access to health care, as well as the ability to empower women to make their own personal decisions on how to manage their bodies and their health. UPENDO is working to do this as well.”

Along with the underwear drive, which will be distributed to young women in Ghana, the GPS group is also working on how to make the how-to booklet.

“Groups chose to do awareness or a physical product, but we are doing both,” Kang said. “We are working on the how-to booklet for the girls to use when they don’t have available women hygiene products available. We also have a simple vocabulary section. Because of this growing issue, we want to make this helpful for them so they can stay clean.”

Newe said she believes that many young women in the United States don’t realize how lucky and entitled their lives are because of the opportunities they have available to them.

“Do you think that a young American woman today thinks twice about having access to female sanitary products or being able to take a shower with soap, shampoo and hot water?” she said. “I’ll bet most American girls are more worried about what brand they use and that the packaging looks cool and pretty or that the product makes their hair smell great or makes their hair shine.”

GPS program advisor Melinda Malaspino said students in the GPS program are educated about a wide variety of global perspectives and issues beginning in their freshman year. A few examples include a focus on the importance of literacy – especially in terms of access to education for girls – in developing regions.

“Students who participate in the GPS program for all four years and complete a capstone project earn honors at graduation, setting them apart from their peers,” she said. “Beyond that, they benefit by gaining a range of experiences that lead them to be collaborative workers, effective communicators and globally minded citizens. They write about their experiences in their college entrance essays and teachers in the program write letters of recommendation for them as they apply for college, scholarships and special programs. Numerous students have contacted us about how their experiences with GPS have enabled them to approach college- and career-work with deeper understanding about not only global issues, but also the skills required to be successful.”

More than 400 students have gone through the program at Folsom High School. For students interested in getting involved, Malaspino would be happy to provide more information.

“As program coordinator, I feel extremely proud of what I see our students doing in the Folsom community and the world around them,” she said. “It brings me joy to see them give their time and talents to benefit others and to develop a mindset of growth and generosity.”

The class of 2018 seniors will be presenting their capstone projects after school on March 12, 13, 19 and 20. Malaspino said she is looking for community members to be on the panel of judges. If interested, contact Malaspino at mmalaspi@fcusd.org.

“It is the GPS program and young women like Jasmine that will go out and help change our world for the better,” Newe said. “By having this experience in high school, Jasmine is more aware of a global problem and how everyone can have a small part in solving our global problems.”

A run/walk for awareness will be held on May 28 by UPENDO. For more information, go to upendowomensfoundation.org.