MOUNT VERNON — When is comes to educating students, it goes beyond the typically math and science lessons at Pleasant Street Elementary School. It also involves teaching students basic personal hygiene care.
Jodie Boyd was a student at Pleasant Street Elementary School, had two children attend there, and now is raising a foster son who attends the school. Over the years, she noticed a shift in the schools. What prompted her to notice this shift was when she became a foster parent over a year ago. It was when she started teaching her foster son about personnel hygiene that she realized that kids needed to be taught hygiene. And sometimes, parents aren’t the ones who are able to do that.
Teresa Weaver, Pleasant Street Elementary School principal, knew that there are hygiene issues going on already at the school. Throughout the week, she helps students learn how to wash their clothes in the sink/bathtub, helps brush out knotted hair and helps students clean themselves up a bit, allowing Weaver to help the students feel more confident in their appearance and themselves.
“I’m here (at school) having conversations with my staff and I had thoughts and ideas,” Weaver said. “But it doesn’t matter what your thoughts are and ideas are if you don’t act on them… That’s what made it so fun about Jodie coming in and sitting down with me. Not only was it impressed upon her heart, but she came in with like ‘Here’s the plan. Here’s what I want to do.’”
Boyd knew she wanted to do something to help out so she sat down with her son’s teacher, offering to get supplies for students or other items. It was then, when teachers mentioned students in older grades could also used hygiene products, that Boyd had the idea of creating the care packages for the school.
The care packages have basic hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion and hand sanitizer along with nail clippers and other items. For the older students, things such as razors, shaving cream, deodorant and feminine hygiene products can be obtained.
“When people want to help, their first thought goes to food, and then to clothes,” Boyd said. “People don’t think about hygiene products.”
“When given a choice between spending $20 on food or $20 on hygiene products, most people would choose the food,” Weaver explained.
This leaves a gap for some students who have to go without certain products at home. And this can lead to problems at school. What Weaver does for the student helps a bit but Boyd and Weaver knew there was more that they could do. Weaver explained that poor hygiene can have an impact on a student’s social life and overall academic success. Other students can notice poor hygiene issues which can result in bullying and make them not what to participate with other students or in recreational activities. Poor hygiene can lead to a lack of self confidence to engage socially and academically.
By teaching students about hygiene, Weaver said it can improve their overall education and health.
“These kids aren’t getting the education at home regarding care,” she said. So, she said, it’s up to the school to help out in any way that they can.
The long-term goal of this project is to get a place where students can have the place to wash up, store their care packages, and learn how to wash clothes within the building. Weaver and Boyd have a plan of hopefully turning the old wrestling locker rooms into a space for students to utilize.
“With the completion of the Gateway Project, the field house, the wrestling program will move there,” Weaver said. “That leaves us with two varsity-sized lockers rooms that can be utilized.”
The care packages would go in the lockers and the students could utilize the showers. Using the locker rooms all depends on when, and if, wrestling moves out and when maintenance can get to it. But when the time comes, they already have a person committed to providing a washer and dyer for the school.
“It would be amazing for next August to start utilizing those spaces,” Weaver said. “But, it’s out of my hands.”
But for the moment, the plan is to get a minimum of 50 care packages completed by spring break. They hope to have more bags completed by the start of the next school year, and have plans to have the program become self sufficient at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. In order to get the program to that point, Boyd has been looking into grants to help pay for the items needed. At retail price, a general care package for grades K-3 is $10 and packages for fourth and fifth grader cost about $12.50. Boyd has been working with local retailers to get items at at-cost prices, which would bring the costs down to $5.50 and $7 for the packages.
Boyd has also started working on developing partnerships within the community such as bringing in the health department and hospital for hygiene lessons. Boyd has also been in contact with Tide and Dove about getting possible corporate donations for the program. Boyd said if anyone wants to help donate or wants to help, they can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (740)-504-0300.
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