Kenai Middle School eighth graders Travis Werba, Kiy'a Wilshusen, Ben Matson and Kaylee Grant sort donated clothers for the school clothing store, Monday. Eighth graders enrolled in a leadership class made the store in the school basement.
The basement walls of Kenai Middle School once enclosing old and unused sports equipment until a recent reformation thanks to the eighth-grade leadership class.
The class of 34 is leaving behind its legacy painted with handprints on those basement walls as part of their project to give something back to their school. Under the guidance of their teacher Jean Dixon, the class cleaned up to make room for the Kossack Korner, an in-school store that offers free shoes coats, jackets and clothes to Kenai Middle School students.
Assistant principal Sharon Mook said the need for good quality clothing for students had become more apparent as of late.
"It seems every year there are students in need, but it had become acute to me that there was more and more need this year," Mook said.
KMS, along with a handful of other schools, already has a Christmas donation drive for families in need. Mook said the in-school store was a growth from that idea to meet the students' needs.
"It just hurts my heart, but we've got it under control. I knew Dixon's kids would run with it," she said.
Dixon said this kind of service to peers is something previous leadership classes are known for.
Travis Werba puts away jeans at the Kossack Korner on Monday. Students are in charge of maintaining the store.
Photo by Layton Ehmke
"The students really do it all because their mission is to do things for the school. This one will be their legacy. It looks cheerful, and hey it's their room, and that's the magic. They do it all," Dixon said.
Leadership student Kiy'a Wilshusen said creating the store gave her a sense of personal happiness.
"We made this because we know there are some kids whose families can't afford clothes for school," she said.
Mook said the store is discreet, that kids should have no grief about getting the right gear for school.
"We've put kids in coats and jackets. This is just really cool. These are wonderful kids. We had this huge need we were able to fill. Later on it will take on a life of its own," she said.
The class is preparing a clothes drive in the near future. Right now they are delegating responsibilities to get the word out and organize clothing drop off points.
"Doing good things for others makes them feel good, and those are the things that keep me going. A class like this gives a young person the sense to see what value they have and what they have to offer others. Life isn't all about taking. You receive so much more in the giving," Mook said.
Dixon said there is a huge variety of sizes needed to properly outfit students.
"We need shoes, jackets, gloves, hats and pants apparel for living in Alaska. We really need a continuous flow of clothes to help it really take off," Dixon said. "There will be a collection day at some point where anyone can bring new clothes or clothes in good condition." The collection day is, of course, under the responsibility of Dixon's class.
Student Kaylee Grant, said they were in the process of organizing a collection.
"We made a slide show to present to the sixth-graders and a rhyming song to help people remember the store is there and that it always needs things," she said. "This is all for helping the less fortunate."
Later on, perhaps with next year's class, improvements and additions a planned to be made. But for now, the focus is to collect clothes.
"You have to have a team of dedicated people who care about the future. You have to have a special teacher like Dixon to pull this off," Mook said.
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