A group of eighth grade girls have done something really special: They went from not knowing what a podcast was earlier this year to creating an award-winning conversation about periods.
The students at Bronx Prep Middle School — Litzy Encarnacion, Ashley Amankwah, Kassy Abad, Kathaleen Restitullo, Carolina Abreu, Jasmin Acosta and Riazel Febles — along with their English teacher, Shehtaz Huq, won NPR’s first Student Podcast Challenge, submitting their very first episode of Sssh! Periods to the contest with hours to spare.
As young women, the students were tired of feeling like they couldn’t discuss their periods without making people uncomfortable or being shamed. They decided to do something about it.
Every Thursday, from January until March, the girls got together after school to chat about menstruation. They originally tried working from a script but decided having a “normal” conversation was much more natural — a revelation very much in keeping with how they feel about discussing their periods.
In the process, the students and their teacher have learned a lot about what goes into making a podcast work, how to produce them and, if they’re being truthful, what a podcast is.
When they found out they won NPR’s contest, just weeks after submitting their entry, their reaction was what might be expected of teenage girls receiving good news: The screamed with joy. Their principal wondered whether a fire alarm had been pulled.
There were 5,700 entries involving 25,000 students, Huq said, and to be selected on the strength of one episode has been inspiring.
The girls also discuss the Pink Tax on feminine hygiene products, abortion, sexism, shoulder straps and gender-based dress codes in school and other topics they feel strongly about as young women.
Producer Michael O’Connell is joined by the energetic and wise-beyond-their-years young women of Bronx Prep Middle School about their new and award-winning podcast series, Sssh! Periods, who refuse to accept that menstruation is something to be ashamed of or unnatural.