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Arkansas teacher, student make a ‘needs closet’ for items

May 13, 2019

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — High school can be tough, but it’s even more difficult for students struggling to afford basic necessities. That’s where a Northside High School teacher and student come in.

Paige Turney noticed last semester students would avoid sitting next to one individual due to strong body odor. It was tough for the second-year educator to see.

Turney reached out to the school’s counselor, nurse and assistant principals in hopes there might be resources available on campus. There weren’t any, so she took matters into her own hands and began asking the public for items to create a needs closet.

“I was sitting here thinking if my student doesn’t have access to this, then I’m sure the whole school doesn’t have access to this,” Turney said to the Southwest Times Record.

Turney presented the idea to Keri Rathbun, Northside principal, who let her know junior Lexie Mosby was working on the same thing.

Mosby was part of Junior Leadership Academy, which required participants to create a final project. After brainstorming, her group decided to provide free personal care products for students in need.

Now, Turney has a small team with Mosby, her co-teacher and a few other students for the “Healthy Hygiene Project.”

High school is supposed to be a safe place for students to figure out who they are, Turney said, but it can hurt their self-esteem when others don’t want to be around them because their hair or breath stinks.

“Kids shouldn’t have to worry about not having shampoo or conditioner,” Turney said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about not having deodorant.”

Turney began a page on DonorsChoose, a website that allows teachers to share what they are lacking and donors may select items they want to order online, which are sent to the school. She asked for shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash and feminine hygiene products.

Girls shouldn’t have to miss school because of their menstrual cycle. Boys shouldn’t be afraid to try out for the football team, because they’re worried about sweating, Turney said.

“So many people feel like their socioeconomic class is a boundary for them; that it’s a limit for them,” Mosby said. She asked for input from several students, who said this idea would help alleviate some of their stress and make school easier.

Northside was recently named the most diverse high school in the state with minority groups making up 75% of the student population, according to the Arkansas Department of Education. The school’s report also indicates 80% of students are low income.

Mosby wants the project to make a difference for her classmates, even if it’s just giving them the courage to join a new club, because they’re not worried about buying a new toothbrush.

The student who inspired the project dropped out before Turney could get it started, which broke her heart, but she’s still hopeful.

Some students gave Turney $7 to help with the effort, and she’s working toward finding a discreet location for students to pick up items without being embarrassed.

“Even though they’re not going to say what’s going on at home, I know once they have access to this stuff, they’re going to be so thankful,” Turney said. “That’s why you go into teaching — to just make an impact on that one kid — even if it’s just a stick of deodorant and they can come to school. That’s the best feeling ever.”


Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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