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Cleveland Kids Get Free Uniforms, Supplies Thanks to Pilot Program

CLEVELAND, Ohio—Theresa Pettway is a mother of 5, and buying school clothes can not only be time consuming, but expensive, too.

A special pilot program in Cleveland is helping to cut costs and boost attendance so students can focus on learning
The 3-year program provides free uniforms and school supplies for 1,000 students in grades K-3
Shoes and Clothes for Kids (SC4K), with the help of school-wear company French Toast, will donate the uniforms to the five Cleveland schools
So, for her, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s new “Classroom Guarantee” pilot program is a godsend. 

“It’s rough, I mean, and that goes for a lot of parents, there’s a lot of parents out here that’s struggling and I don’t think I’m the only parent that’s struggling because there’s a lot of people that got kids and they ain’t got nowhere to sleep,” said Pettway.

The 3-year pilot program will provide free uniforms and other school supplies for some 1,000 students in kindergarten through third grade, giving parents one less thing to worry about.

Plus, kids get the chance to succeed with the help of school clothing vendor French Toast.

“In addition to serving thousands of kids once a year, this is a test that we guarantee that every classroom has all the school uniforms and school supplies they need throughout the school year. Can we improve attendance even more? Can we improve the conditions for learning even more? And can we improve third grade reading scores?” said Terry Uhl, SC4K.

The company is donating the uniforms to five schools. 

“Creates a powerful force to help for change and help kids succeed here in town,” said Matt Buesing, VP, French Toast.

Memorial Elementary is one of them, and they're excited about it. 

“When I found out my kindergarten through 3rd graders were going to receive two free uniforms, plus play clothes and a gift card to get shoes twice a school year, I actually cried,” said Mary Dinkins, principal, Memorial Elementary School. “I just thought this is going to be huge… students are going to come to school more frequently in clean uniforms… they are not going to be out of uniform and they’ll be more ready to learn.”

Pettway says she loves her kids’ school and is grateful for the program—and her kids are happy.

“Some of the kids ain’t got new uniforms, so they come to school like some kids have wear their old uniforms that they wore last year, so that put a smile on kids’ faces when they get new stuff, and I know I put a smile on my kids’ faces… my kids be like, ‘mommy look what I got, look what I got,’ and I’d be like, ‘that’s awesome son,’” said Pettway.

In addition to boosting attendance, the district hopes to improve third grade reading levels— something the state of Ohio is focused on as well.

The uniform project costs more than $2 million.


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