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We all want to look good and feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, for too many middle- and high-school students, looking good and feeling good about themselves is something that seems to be out of reach — particularly for those who live in or on the fringes of poverty.
That’s the case in our community and in communities around the country. We want to do something about that. We don’t understand why, in a country as blessed as the United States, any child should be in a position to be ridiculed or bullied because of what they wear, how their hair looks, or how their body smells. Simply put, there’s no reason for it to ever happen.
But it does, and far too often.
Each day, approximately 160,000 students skip school to avoid being bullied, the National Education Association reports, with approximately 13 million school students being affected by bullying each year.
Sixty-two percent of NEA teachers and education support professionals polled for a 2010 study “indicated they’d witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month. Forty-one percent indicated they’d witnessed bullying once a week or more.”
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “(u)p to to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress,” The New York Times reported.
The Times also reported that frequent absences have been linked to low academic achievement and high dropout rates. The article cited studies suggesting a direct correlation between attendance and academic performance, and suggesting “that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do.”
According to the Times’ report, “(p)oor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school.”
“This a social justice issue for us because bullying compromises students’ basic right to learn and grow in a safe environment,” former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in 2012 when he headed the labor union.
It’s a social justice issue for us, too, one we take seriously because we view each child in our community as members of one family — the family of God.
Through our Secret Boutique ministry, we provide:
- Free, fashionable clothing in a secret upscale retail setting where our customers are VIPs and are treated to an incredible “shopping” experience
- Fashion advice, wardrobe consultations, and Personal Shopping Support
- Free hair cuts, styling services, manicures and pedicures, and personal care products
- Beauty, Fitness, Health, and Wellness classes
- Volunteer opportunities for students and adults designed to foster a sense of community and provide a network of support for students who are often targeted by bullies
- Anti-bullying, anger management, and conflict resolution education for students, families, and adults
Help us change the face of middle- and high-school and put a smile back on a student’s face. Here’s how:
1. Donate: Share your freshly-laundered clothing, cash, or new un-opened personal care products. Donations can be mailed to Basic UMC, PO Box 2447, Waynesboro VA 22980. (Pick-up or Drop-off may be available for donations from Augusta County VA residents. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
Checks should be made out to “Basic UMC” with “Secret Boutique” noted in the memo field. Donations of cash, clothing, and products may be tax deductible (consult with a certified accountant or tax professional). Donors will receive a receipt of their donation.
2. Volunteer: We can always use more volunteers. Help us sort and prepare clothes for display or stock a local clothing closet. Get in on the ground floor and help set up a boutique location. Professional stylists and aestheticians are invited to volunteer their services during boutique events. If this tugs at your heart and you want to help, we can find a way to plug you in. VOLUNTEER NOW
3. Sponsor: Sponsor a student, a rack of clothes, an event, or become a business partner. BECOME A SPONSOR NOW
4. Become an affiliate: Open and run a Secret Boutique ministry in your community. We’ll be happy to share our implementation strategy with you. BECOME AN AFFILIATE
5. Make a dream come true: Yes, we know it’s a big wish, but that’s what we’re all about. We’d love to have one or more box trucks to outfit as mobile fashion boutiques. These trucks would be stocked with clothing, accessories, personal care products and other items needed by children and students, and would be dispatched directly to some of our lowest-income neighborhoods on a regular basis. SUPPORT THE MOBILE BOUTIQUE DRIVE
Our long-range goal is to have a Secret Boutique ministry in every community across the country. It’s a big dream, but so is the problem. Together, we can do something about it. Join us as we strive to stand up to bullying and make sure all students look and feel great about themselves.
For more information, contact email@example.com or visit the Secret Boutique website (currently under construction) at www.SecretBoutique.org.
National Education Association. “Nation’s educators continue push for safe, bully-free environments.” Posted 8 Oct. 2012. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2016 from http://www.nea.org/home/53298.htm)
Perez-Pena, R. “‘Chronically absent’ students skew school data, study finds, citing parents role.”Posted 17 May 2012. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/education/up-to-15-percent-of-students-chronically-skip-school-johns-hopkins-finds.html?_r=0