Bullying in the schoolyard can take many forms, and in this particular school the principal decided to help the kids out in a unique way and change the situation.
Akbar Cook, the principal of West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, is aware that many of his students lack clean clothes to wear, a problem that led to taunts and bullying from others who are more fortunate. The problem got so severe that as many as 85 percent of the students have been skipping attending the school over the past few years.
Cook shared an incident from 2016 when a school security officer wanted to check a teenage girl’s bag, but she screamed at him and fought to not let him see what it contained, CNN reported.
“The police later told me she had dirty clothes in her bag because she was homeless and didn’t want anyone to know,” Cook told CNN. “She was fighting for her pride.”
Thanks Al Hardy helping bring light to one of the new barriers our kids are facing. PSE&G provided the funds and NPS Facilities made it happen. #WestSide #WeTakeCareOfOurOwn
“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,” Cook said.
“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,” he added.
In 2016, Cook applied for a US$20,000 grant from PSEG Foundation to create a laundromat in the old school football locker room.
The school now has five commercial washing machines and five dryers on hand. When the word spread in the community, there were plenty of donations of laundry detergents to kick start the “feel clean operation.”
“As the story has spread, we have been receiving packages of detergent at the school and through our Amazon wish list page,” said Nicole Daniel, the school’s operating assistant.
“Many times the students may come in because they’re embarrassed, they don’t look the same, somebody’s complaining about a body odor. I would say, ‘OK, baby, then we’re going to have to do it the old way.’ We have soap, we have water. But now with this laundry room we don’t have to do that,” said Daniel.
“We are trying to teach them to navigate their pride,” said Cook. “My kids are fighters—they just need good ways to fight for themselves, and then take pride in what they can do.”
Sometimes, teaching life lessons is just as important as learning the “three Rs.” Giving these kids back their self-worth will go a long way in helping to create good citizens of the future!
Watch the video below:
You may also want to watch this video
Teacher gets birthday surprise at work. The last gift has her replying with a three letter word