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Zoe Knight '25 in front of a Women's Rights are Human Rights flag

First-year known for follow-through exemplifies DePauw’s outstanding students

Leaders the World Needs

is a regular feature of DePauw Magazine, which is published three times a year.

Zoe Knight ’25 had always had frank discussions with her mother, who taught her not only about her own bodily functions but also that some young women had much more to worry about than mild monthly cramps.

So when Knight was contemplating a meaningful project that would enable her to secure a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ top achievement, she decided to take on “period poverty,” the lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Period poverty, Knight said, sometimes keeps young women from attending school for several days each month and even causes some to drop out of school.

“A lot of people think it is just a third-world country problem,” Knight said, but she knew that some of her classmates at Kirkwood High School outside St. Louis were affected. “A lot of people don’t realize you can’t use food stamps to buy period products.

“It’s an awful system, and I’m trying to solve it the best that I can. And I’m hoping to grow and be able to solve it on a bigger level as well. But right now, we’re just starting small.”

She learned that young women at her high school who needed a product had to go to the nurse’s office, where items she considered inferior were kept in a locked drawer. She created dispensers and worked with school administrators to install them in each women’s restroom, then stocked them with higher-quality products. When she sought contributions to buy more products, companies turned her down because she had not incorporated. So she created Project WallFlower, a 501(c)3 organization.

Knight’s project is continuing at Kirkwood this year, head principal Michael Havener said, and she wants to replicate it at other high schools, as well as DePauw. “I’m hoping that we can be set up in a ton of schools and make sure that we’re making a difference,” she said.

Knight, who also was a member of her high school’s mock trial team – which won the Missouri state championship and was seventh in the nation – is an example of the kind of students who come to DePauw, said Mary Beth Petrie, the new vice president of enrollment management. “DePauw students care deeply about their fellow community members, and they seek to make a deep impact on the world.”

Havener, the head principal, said he was impressed by “the way that she approached and handled a situation or a topic that some would have hesitation to have that conversation, especially with a male principal.” He also was impressed with her follow-through; “sometimes you have students who are leaders that start something and then just let it go. Zoe was very, very thoughtful in this process.”

He said that the administration is aware that some Kirkwood students struggle with poverty; one in six experience food shortages. But period poverty was largely invisible until Knight raised the issue.

Down the line, he said, “I expect her to lead. I expect her to be someone who is influential in the future and I really can’t wait to see what she accomplishes.”

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