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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY JACKIE LAWSON | Gaither High
The Cowboy Closet is open for business at Gaither High.
The closet, named for the school mascot, matches students in need of basic personal items, such as clothing, food or toiletries, with others who are able to purchase the much needed items. Students on a predetermined list based on financial need write their anonymous requests on tags that are placed on a “tree” at the school and others are encouraged to pick up a tag and provide the item.
“We all experience a crisis in our life, such as a death, a fire or even the (recent) storm in the Northeast,” said Gaither High guidance counselor Mary Burke. “When this happens, teachers try to help their students. I notice myself and other teachers saying they bought so-and-so something.”
During holiday and winter weather season, donations are in particularly high demand.
“When we bond together, instead of just one person doing it, we can help all together,” Burke said.
Junior Lania Juarez proposed the idea for Cowboy Closet last year.
“I talked to Mrs. Burke in the spring to get (Cowboy Closet) started,” but the plan was postponed because of renovations at the school. “I wasn’t really discouraged when it was delayed,” Juarez said. “I knew I would continue to pursue it.”
The confidentiality of those who benefit from the program is highly valued. Only two guidance counselors are allowed access to the lists of families in need.
“It gives them the opportunity to ask and receive without anyone knowing it was them who needed” something, said junior Hannah Henderson. “For some people, telling others you need help is a big pride issue and affects their self esteem, when it really shouldn’t because we are all in need some way or another.”
The top priority for the guidance department is to spread the word about the growing program.
Juarez hopes to create a club at Gaither to promote the Cowboy Closet. The concept has been featured in school newsletters and reminders in order to encourage students to lend a helping hand. Donations are tax deductible. Other schools, including Middleton High, have similar programs.
The response so far has been great.
“The day after we put all of the tags up, people had already signed up to donate three quarters of the supplies needed,” Henderson said.