by Cindy McMahon
I’ve heard it said that “clothes make the man.” And while I don’t have proof, I’m convinced that the person who coined this phrase was a teenager. The right outfit matters more to teenagers than to anyone else, and this fact makes it particularly painful for our high school students who can’t afford the latest styles.
Family to Family to the rescue! I’ve written about Family to Family before, and you may remember that this all-volunteer group of faith communities has provided much-needed support for Reynolds High and Reynolds Middle students who can’t afford what they need for school They help with everything from school supplies to field trip fees and even college dorm room supplies. Family to Family, led by retired school counselors Tina Stovall and Cindy Oak, has also tackled transportation challenges, advocating strongly for a bus line that will extend to Reynolds.
Their latest project is the Rocket Rack, providing new and gently used clothing for students at Reynolds High and Reynolds Middle. Students in need can discreetly get clothes for free while others can shop at rock-bottom prices. And the merchandise meets teenage style standards!
Reynolds senior Addison Seay worked with Family to Family, winning a $1,000 grant to develop the Rocket Rack as part of her Graduation Project. She continues to serve as the “buyer,” thereby making sure that the clothes appeal to Reynolds’ style-conscious teens. This project contributed to Seay’s success as well: she has recently been awarded the prestigious NC State University Textiles Scholarship.
Explaining the impact of the Rocket Rack from her point of view, Seay said, “One of the goals of our store is to promote high self-esteem and body positivity. Unfortunately, students in high school often feel they should look or dress a certain way, and our store provides Reynolds students with ways to feel confident in the clothes that they are wearing, but still meet the needs of our school dress code.”
Seay also pointed out that because the Rocket Rack is open to all students and not just those in need, there is no stigma of shopping there. One student who came to a Rocket Rack pop-up sale in the commons area even exclaimed, “This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened at Reynolds!”
School Social Worker Lauren Ward brings students to the Rocket Rack on a regular basis. “We had a student with some significant life changes,” she said. “The student did not have access to most of her belongings. We took her to the clothing closet, and she was able to stock up on jeans, shirts, and shoes. She felt such relief to know that she could get things at school, and have her needs met. It lifted a tremendous burden for this student.”
In addition to Seay’s purchases, the Rocket Rack accepts gently used, teen-appropriate donations of clothes. Whether new or used, all clothing is processed by students in the Occupational Course of Study (OCS) program, providing yet another benefit to Reynolds students.
Kristi Stevens, Reynolds OCS teacher, said that these students with special needs “are practicing real-world work skills and have gained a sense of ownership in the store by running and operating the school-based business.” This effort dovetails perfectly with OCS, which is designed to help prepare these students for employment and independent living after high school.
Family to Family and the Rocket Rack provide yet another example of how our generous local community supports our Reynolds schools. I hope you’ll help! We need financial contributions so that this great resource can continue. Donations can be made directly to AC Reynolds High School and should be earmarked for the Rocket Rack. Learn more about the Rocket Rack at the “Organizations” tab of the AC Reynolds High School website.
Cindy McMahon is the Reynolds District Representative, Buncombe County School Board. Contact: email@example.com.