In a heart-warming gesture for his students, a high school principal in New Jersey, United States, set up free laundry machines and dryers for his homeless students who were being bullied and harassed on social media by their peers because their clothes smelled.
After finding out that his students were forced to skip classes out of embarrassment, because their clothes smelled, Akbar Cook, the principal of West Side High School decided to act. He applied for a grant from PSE&G, a utilities company, to help set up free laundry service in the school premises. Although it took him 2 years to receive the $20,000 grant, he was finally able to accomplish his goal.
This September, when his students return to school, they will be welcomed with a fully equipped, free of charge, laundry service. The school converted their old sports locker room into a Laundromat, with five washers, five dryers and a full stock of detergent. Laundry services will be made available to students from 3PM to 6PM, and a supervisor will be present at all times to guide and help students.
In an interview with CNN, Cook said “These are kids, good kids who want to learn, that are missing three to five days a month because they were being bullied because they were dirty. I even changed the school uniform to darker colors so they could go more days without cleaning them, but even with that, students were struggling to have them look clean enough to attend.”
The school is now confident that this move will help students feel more comfortable and confident, and will also deter bullies from making snide, disrespectful comments towards others. “We are trying to teach them to navigate their pride,” Cook said. “My kids are fighters. They just need good ways to fight for themselves, and then take pride in what they can do.”