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From blazers to button-downs, Forsyth Central students ‘dress for success’ thanks to community donations
FCHS Dress for Success Thrift Shop
Students walk by racks of clothing, browsing donated dress clothes during Forsyth Central High School’s first pop-up Dress for Success thrift shop. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Forsyth Central High School hosted its first Dress for Success thrifting event in its media center Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 27 and 28, giving students, staff and families the chance to shop for donated dress clothes.

The two-day pop-up thrift store was set up to provide equal opportunity for students to take home professional dress clothes they can wear for a variety of events and occasions, such as Dress for Success days at school.

School leaders wanted to make it a fun experience for the students, turning it into a thrift store so that anyone can stop by and “shop” with their friends in the way they would at any other store. For this event, each student could either take two items or a full outfit.

“It makes me happy because the kids seem to enjoy it, and it helps,” said Karen Cole, event organizer and director of the school’s wellness center. “We want everybody to be able to participate, whether that’s graduation, mock trials, mock interviews, a real job interview, a family event that needs professional, dressy attire. We want to level that playing field for everybody and remove those stigmas and barriers.”

The event was set up similarly to the school’s now annual winter thrifting extravaganza where, for the past two years in December, students have also been able to pick up free, donated coats for themselves and their families.

With each thrift store the school hosts, though, Cole said the pile of community donations keeps getting larger and larger. As of Monday, the school had already collected more than 1,300 clothing and accessory items for the Dress for Success thrift store, including a variety of dresses, skirts, shirts, belts, suspenders, ties, scarves, wallets, shoes, pants and much more.

“It’s been a definite community effort to get as much as we have,” Cole said. “I really appreciate the community for doing that.”

Sophomore Juliyana James said she had been to the winter thrift events before, but she couldn’t believe the selection of accessories and clothes available when she walked into the media center on Monday.

“It’s not just the clothes, so if people needed just shoes, they can still get it right here,” James said.

Another student, Haylee Stich, said she loves the thrift pop-ups because “you find something, most of the time, you won’t find at a store.”

Students also had the opportunity to try on each outfit before leaving with their picks thanks to In & Out Photo, which donated portable dressing rooms for the event. That way, students weren’t going home with clothes that ultimately didn’t fit.

School leaders are making sure that every donated item will be put to good use. Any leftover items from the thrift store at Central are going to East Forsyth High School, where families in need of clothes will be able to choose outfits before any leftover items are donated to The Place of Forsyth.

Cole said the event could only happen because of the large team of parent and student volunteers who helped to market the store, gather donations, sort items and set up the shop.

Their help and each of these events contributes to Central’s goal of becoming a community school. Cole said Central is in a pilot program with the state department to become a certified Whole Child Model School, making sure students get the care they need.

“That’s what these events are about is bringing our community together and making sure that everybody’s needs are met,” Cole said. “That’s really the force that drives this ship.”