Nothing seems more important to a teenager than "fitting in." Sometimes that means wearing name brand clothes and shoes, but what if you can't afford those things? The thought of not being good enough or not in the "in-crowd" can distract a student from learning.
Staff at Camdenton Middle school want to help fill that gap and provide students with the resources and items they need to not only fit in, but to survive.
It all started toward the end of the 2012 school year when one staff member asked if the unclaimed lost and found items could be given to children in need. Guidance counselors Becki Long-Ruggles and Pat McWhirter helped spearhead a project that was welcomed with open arms by the rest of the middle school staff. Not long after, Laker's Closet was born.
"We have everything a student might need," Long-Ruggles said. She means everything. Jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, sweat shirts, dresses, shoes, p.e. clothing and more. Shampoo, deodorant, other sanitary and food items are available for students who need them, as well.
Camdenton school district has more than 50 percent of the student population on free or reduced lunches. To qualify for free or reduced lunches, a family's income must be below a specific amount. If a family cannot afford school meals, most likely new shoes, clothes or a backpack for school are not an option. "You don't always recognize the need," Long-Ruggles said.
The clothes in the "store" are for sale, but it all gets given away. The staff does not want any student to feel singled out or embarrassed for getting something out of Laker's Closet, which is why they are trying to make it feel as much like a store as they can.
The store not only helps students in need, but teaches other students the joy of giving. The school's student leadership team came up with the name "Laker's Closet" and is helping with the effort. Other students can choose this project as their area of special interest.
"It's thrilling to see the whole school involved in it and to know that we can reach many more children and fulfill their needs," Long-Ruggles said.
According to school officials, all staff and students have gotten behind the project. "It is a wonderful and overwhelming feeling to realize how much it has grown in a small amount of time," McWhirter said.
Camdenton Middle School has a motto, "It's a great day to be a Laker." By providing necessities to students in need, Long-Ruggles hopes said, "We want every child to feel like its a great day to be a Laker every day."