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Teacher working to make sure all of her students come to school in clean clothes

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 18:38:42-05

CLEVELAND — Clean clothes lead to better performance and better attendance. That much has been proven through a study done by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, but we don’t really need a study to tell you that.

Clean clothes are important, for students and their self-esteem. That's why the district provides 2,000 uniforms to students and their families.

But when the uniforms go out into the hands of families, many of them low-income, it can be a struggle to stay on top of keeping them clean.

“It’s a simple item. It’s a clean white or blue polo shirt,” said Yining Lin, wraparound services coordinator at Almira Elementary. “And they can’t come to school because they don’t have that.”

When 3rd grade teacher Alexis Widmer heard that, a lightbulb went off in her head.

She knew she had to do something to help her students.

“I want to do anything I can while they’re with me to make their lives that much simpler,” Widmer said, adding that she often sees students in the hallways wearing the same clothes from the day before.

Widmer turned to crowd-funding, creating a GoFundMe page to raise money to install a washer and dryer unit inside the school — open for families and students to use.

It’s a model other CMSD schools have followed, according to director of attendance Lorri Hobson.

“When you have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, you learn to be innovative and you’re not surprised by the barriers that your family faces on a daily basis,” Hobson said. It's why their educators work to remove those barriers to education, one by one, finding creative ways to do so.

Clean clothes are important — something so many of us take for granted.

“When you feel good about yourself, it actually impacts your ability to achieve, it impacts your ability to socialize. It impacts your ability to believe in yourself and see yourself as a valuable part of the community,” Hobson added.

To donate to Almira Elementary’s washing machine fundraiser, you can click here.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Landstory, tell us here.