CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Chronic absences due to a lack of clean clothes can take a devastating toll on a student’s overall success in school. By removing access barriers to learning, the Community Partnership Schools model is helping more Clay County children realize their full potential.
Ernest Hamilton, the Florida Regional Executive Director for Children’s Home Society, said this makes a difference.
“We know how important it is for children to feel safe and secure and have normalcy,” Hamilton said. “This is something we take for granted, like having clean clothes, and just the point of a child being embarrassed about that is a thought that sometimes people don’t think about.”
The new laundry center and clothing exchange at Wilkinson Jr. High School in Clay County provides students, their families and the surrounding community access to a boutique-style shop. It’s complete with dressing rooms, where clothes, shoes and accessories for all ages are free. The center also provides free access to washing machines and dryers.
“A new outfit, a new pair of shoes makes you feel really good about yourself, makes you feel like you’re on top of the world,” Hamilton said. “We live in a cruel world sometimes and children and people can be pretty mean, so when you can go in there and feel good about yourself, it makes a difference.”
Wilkinson Jr. High School, a Community Partnership School, is a collaborative partnership among Children’s Home Society of Florida, Baptist Health, St. Johns River State College and Clay County School District.
Together, partners focus on removing tough barriers to learning by bringing together high-quality academics, health care, counseling, support and more right on-site at the school. It’s a team effort.
“We’ve had our friends over at Bealls to donate mannequins, clothing racks, donate those items for us. We’re going to have new clothes, it almost looks like a clothing store for kids so it’s more than just a washer and dryer it’s like an outlet on campus for our children,” says Wilkinson.
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