One teenager didn’t have a place to live, let alone shampoo or soap to shower with.
Another Whiteland Community High School student was marked down on a class presentation because he didn’t have all the clothing to meet the presentation’s dress code.
A group of educators at the school will open the Warrior Wardrobe this fall, a clothing and toiletry pantry for high school students, to address the needs they see in the classroom every day.
While students in need can get food if they are hungry at school, the school wasn’t equipped to help with other basic needs that might affect their education.
Teachers would see students without coats, without a way to get basic toiletry items or without the clothing they need for formal presentations.
Students who need everyday school clothes can easily go into the Warriors Closet at the freshman center when it is open a few times a month after school, teacher Casey Moeller said.
“I thought some of our kids needed everyday clothing,” she said.
Nearly every teacher in the school has a story about helping a student get clothing or toiletries. A teacher bought a coat for a teen who was wearing a thin jacket in the middle of the winter; guidance counselors give necessities to homeless students.
Moeller considered the closet when she heard that a student lost a point on an assignment for wearing black sneakers instead of dress shoes, because he had no means to get another pair of shoes.
“It really broke my heart,” she said. “At the time, he did the best he could.”
Some students who come to the closet may not be on the cusp of poverty, Moeller said. Often, students may need clothing for one event that their parents can’t afford at that moment, or because a younger sibling needed something that was more important, she said.
High school students whose families live on just the brink of poverty are usually the ones who offer to make do with whatever they already have, Moeller said.
“I would almost say (high school) students are the forgotten ones in the family,” she said.
Stocking the closet has been a schoolwide effort, she said.
Custodians turned over clothing that was left in the school’s lost-and-found bins. Teachers have come to the school during the summer to wash clothes and hang them on racks.
Family and consumer science students will repair clothing with tears or stains. Students in a mentor group will make an effort to stock the closet with items students would need to participate in special events such as spirit week, Moeller said.
“It’s turning into something a lot bigger than we thought,” she said. “Kids are trying to find a way to make it fun.”