WAXHAW – Emily Roth has had a heart for the students at Walter Bickett Elementary School ever since she worked with the school for her Girl Scout Silver Award project.
The 15-year-old Cuthbertson High School freshman is now dedicating her Gold Award project to helping Walter Bickett students from low-income families.
Emily recently launched the Dressed for Success initiative, a student-led movement seeking to collect new and gently used clothes to be given as school uniforms to students in need at Walter Bickett.
“Ultimately, I really care for this school,” Emily said. “… Most of these kids are (from) low-income families, and buying (school) uniforms is harder than it seems.”
Walter Bickett has required school uniforms for a number of years, guidance counselor Caren Potter said. Uniforms benefit families because students can utilize the same clothes multiple times, Potter said. But a high percentage of the school’s 700 students are on free and reduced lunch, so Walter Bickett keeps uniforms on hand for families who need a little extra help.
Dressed for Success will help the school maintain and increase its supply of uniforms, all of which are donated, Potter said.
“We do work on a strictly donation basis for our clothing system,” she said. “… Having someone who can do the legwork for that is going to be incredible and truly remarkable.”
After speaking with Walter Bickett administrators about the need for uniforms, Emily began organizing her project and submitted a proposal to a committee of Girl Scouts leaders for approval. The four requirements of the Gold Award, Emily said, are sustainability, leadership, delegation and a community/global aspect. Because sustainability is a key aspect, Emily had to design an initiative that could carry on without her after she graduates in 2017.
Emily recruited some peers from the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes club to help with the project, but it’s been a challenge keeping people involved, she said.
“Service clubs don’t have a ton of appeal to the average high school student,” Emily said. “Service projects are not on a high list of things teenagers want to do at this point in their lives,” as many are concerned with grades and would rather hang out with their friends, she said.
Emily encourages students to become involved by offering volunteer credit hours, something a handful of clubs and honor societies require, and she’s had a teacher agree to offer extra credit to students who donate uniforms.
“If you give people an incentive, they’ll go for it,” Emily said.
Another aspect of the project – delegation – encouraged Emily to take the project outside the walls of her school. She’s set up two collection sites, at Ruocco Dental in Waxhaw and Webb Orthodontics in the SouthPark area of Charlotte, and has delegated the task of collecting the items to the businesses.
“It’s (involved) going out there and saying to the drop-off locations, ‘Can you help me with this?’” Emily said.
Emily also is encouraging the community to become involved by hitting the stores and spring and fall consignment sales and purchasing items that can be used for uniforms. She’s also talked to Walter Bickett about organizing a swap system, where Walter Bickett parents can trade in uniforms their children have outgrown each year in exchange for uniforms that fit.
The goal for Dressed for Success is to collect 2,000 uniforms each year, which Emily said would supply about three uniforms to each student at Walter Bickett. She also wants the initiative to become its own entity so it can continue to flourish in the years to come.
“Honestly, I don’t care if I never get any recognition for it – I’m doing this for the kids, I’m doing this for the school, and I want this to continue without me,” she said. “I want this to be Dressed for Success, not Emily’s Gold Award.”
People can help by donating khaki or navy pants, shorts, skirts or jumpers, along with white, navy, gray or black long- or short-sleeved polo shirts or polo dresses. Children’s sizes 4 to 16 are needed. Drop-off locations include Ruocco Dental, 8418 New Town Road in Waxhaw, and Webb Orthodontics, 2915 Coltsgate Road, suite 102, in Charlotte.
Find more information at www.dressedforsuccess.org.