Mission-driven: Harpeth Hall empowers students to shape the world through global perspectives
Harpeth Hall develops responsible citizens who have global perspectives and make meaningful contributions to their communities and the world
by Jessica Bliss
In eighth grade, Veronica Pierce ’23 came across a YouTube video titled “How do homeless women cope with their periods?” The videographers followed a homeless woman living in New York who used unsanitary items like newspapers and rags to control her periods. She said the hardest part about being homeless was being a woman.
“I was so disturbed by the fact that these women did not have the resources that I took for granted on a daily basis needed to control a completely normal process that all women experience,” Veronica said.
After researching the subject further, Veronica was astonished by the number of people around the world who experience this same struggle. The February 2022 Journal of Global Health reported that 500 million people lacked access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities. She then wondered how her peers experienced this issue. She began to take note of the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation. Many of her friends would sneak period products into their sleeves to take into the bathroom so people wouldn't stare at them, and news of girls starting their periods would be shared in whispers instead of everyday conversations.
“If people at my school couldn't even talk about menstruation without viewing it as a shameful thing, how would we solve the problem of period poverty?” Veronica said. “This led me to want to create change for women in my community and around the world.”
Global Scholars, one of Harpeth Hall’s premier programs, provided a platform for Veronica to conduct deeper research on the issue and begin to implement solutions. The importance of global perspectives is deeply ingrained in Harpeth Hall’s mission and curriculum.
Through international exchanges, cultural partnerships, and the school’s premier Global Scholars and SEEK programs, students learn to think beyond themselves and the boundaries of their immediate surroundings and more fully see the world. This emphasis allows students to gain a more nuanced understanding of cultural, social, and economic differences, preparing them to be adaptable and empathetic leaders. “Our students must recognize and value the perspectives of others,” said Elizabeth Allen, a Harpeth Hall world languages teacher and director of the Global Scholars program. “Global can mean ‘worldwide.’ It can also mean understanding the ‘whole of something.’ Our students need to consider both aspects of the word ‘global.’ “There are many ways this learning plays out in students’ lives, and they may not always be obvious. On a personal level, a student who displays curiosity and empathy about any person or situation that is outside of her experience is putting her understanding of global perspectives to work in daily life.”
For Veronica, combating the global problem of period poverty meant first addressing the issue closest to home. She paired with the organization Aunt Flo, a nonprofit that provides dispensers with sustainable tampons and pads to schools and businesses, to have products available in the Harpeth Hall bathrooms “to help restore dignity to my peers and also spread the message about the general inaccessibility of period products.”
She then expanded her work to focus on women who are homeless in the Nashville area. She created an organization called “Period Power” and engaged the Harpeth Hall community to create “period power packs.” Each pack included pads, tampons, hand sanitizer, tissues, and candy (for menstrual cravings). Veronica partnered with local nonprofits, including the Oasis Center, Room in the Inn, the Union Rescue Mission, and The Store, which agreed to distribute the packs to the individuals they serve. She even organized a period packing party with Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys school, to give them the opportunity to touch products, understand that menstruation is not “gross,” and work to combat period poverty, too.
Wanting to share her Global Scholars capstone findings and initiatives with the broader Middle Tennessee community, she spoke to a sold-out crowd at the “Dishin’ Up Dignity” luncheon organized by Nashville’s Community Resource Center on International Women’s Day. She also created a website — periodpowerpacks.com — to inform people about the project and collect donations to purchase more period supplies. She is now working to create a Period Power branch in Boston where she will attend college in the fall.
“Members of the community have been so supportive and donated thousands of dollars that have gone toward purchasing more period products for our packs,” Veronica said. “We have delivered more than 1,000 period power packs to girls and women in Nashville. I have seen how these packs not only relieve some financial burden for women of all backgrounds, races, and ages, but also restore their sense of dignity and humanity."
ABOUT GLOBAL SCHOLARS
Global Scholars begins the spring of the sophomore year, when students accepted into the program explore major themes to build global competence by engaging in activities such as student-directed conversations, presentations by expert speakers, and written reflection. The program culminates senior year with an independent-research project about a topic of particular interest to the individual student scholar. In addition to research and analysis, the capstone project requires the student to create an authentic product related to her topic that may be presented to the school community. In 2023, more than 30 seniors completed their capstone projects and presented them in the Bullard Bright IDEA Lab. Each project sought to answer a question or solve a global problem.
2023 GLOBAL SCHOLARS PROJECTS
Compulsory Voting and the Future of Voter Reform in Modern Democracies — Ella Allen
The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in Kenya — Clara Ambrose
Turkish Street Dogs — Virginia Callen
Healthcare Access in Rural America — Ava Cassidy
Global Narratives: The Impact on Social Studies Education on Shaping National Identities — Priyanka Chiguluri
Prenatal Care in Countries Around the World & Correlation to Mortality Rates — Amelia Cummings
Efficient Aviation: Electric Aircraft and Sustainable Aviation Fuel — Caroline Ford
The Emergence of the Unification Church as a Cult — Rachel King
Counterterrorism: An Educational Approach to Deradicalization — Annie Linley
Lessons on the African Corner of the French World — Olivia Majors
Global Kaleidoscope: American Culture Through an International Lens — Sydney Mattoon
The Impact of Global Education Systems on Mental Health — Maddie McCall
Early Education and Maternal Employment — Mary Meacham
Optimizing Productivity and Increasing Employee Satisfaction with the Four Day Work Week — Maddie Meyer
Invisible Connections: Analyzing Africa’s Geographical, Cultural and Biological Components to Understand a Successful Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic — Grace Moore
Self-Contained Eco-Cities as a New Colonialism — Amelia Olafsson
The Effects of Period Poverty and Menstrual Stigma on Girls Around the World — Veronica Pierce
The Repatriation of Art in the British Museum — Abigail Rankin
Education in South Korea and Finland: A Comparison of Approaches to Learning — Mary Roper
The Globalization of Multiple Sclerosis — Caroline Seehorn
Parallels Between Russian Disinformation Campaigns and the Flaws in the U.S. Media System — Ava Sjursen