Many high school students are self-conscious about their appearance. They don’t want to appear different than their peers. But what happens if you don’t have any clean clothes? To save students from being humiliated, Principal Akbar Cook at West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, decided to offer a free laundromat at the school.
Bullied For Their Dirty Clothes
When students arrived at school wearing dirty clothes, peers would bully them. They would take photos of the clothes and shame them by sharing the snapshots on social media. Principal Cook heard about the bullying and he realized this was the reason nearly 85% of the student population repeatedly skipped school.
Cook first changed the school uniform policies to darker colors. This would help students go more days without cleaning their clothes, as their peers wouldn’t be able to notice any stains. But even with that, students were still struggling to look clean.
That’s when the principal thought of a better solution: offering a free laundromat.
Offering A Clean Start
Cook needed as much help as possible to make this dream possible. Two years ago, he applied for a grant to receive $20,000 for the project. Once approved, the school converted an old football locker room into a free school laundromat.
The room now has five washers and dryers and a stack of donated laundry detergents. It is open to students, free of charge, from 3 to 6 PM. An adult supervisor helps students who may not know how to wash their clothes.
“Many times, the students may come in because they’re embarrassed. They don’t look the same. Somebody’s complaining about a body odor,” said Nicole Daniel, the school’s operating assistant.
But now with the laundromat, students no longer have to feel that way.
Building Their Self-Confidence
“We are trying to teach them to navigate their pride,” Cook said. “My kids are fighters. They just need good ways to fight for themselves, and then take pride in what they can do.”
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