East Lansing is diverse, and the high school is no exception. One counselor at East Lansing High School (ELHS) noticed a need in her student population and immediately took steps to fill it. The community didn’t hesitate to lend a hand and students are now able to receive the kind of resources they may not be able to get at home, at school.
“Last year I saw an article in The Huffington Post about a school with a huge population of students that weren't having all their basic needs met at home and it sounded a little bit like what's happening here,” Says Nicole Coss, Counselor at ELHS and founder of the Teen Needs Closet. “We have kids at both ends of socio-economic spectrum, but not much in the middle. We have quite a few kids that might need a little extra help, so we put this closet together.”
The Closet was set up just after the start of last year so the first round of requested donations were gloves, hats and coats for the upcoming winter season. Coss also noticed that students eligible for the lunch program are provided breakfast and lunch at school, but do not receive any kind of snack during the day, and decided the Closet could address this need, too. The donations were overwhelming, and from there the staff was able to assess what kind of items students came for regularly.
The Teen Needs Closet stocks everything from granola bars to deodorant to laundry detergent. The student services staff and the secretaries who run the Closet are committed to making sure that these students have access to any resources they might need and can’t find at home. “We don’t question kids, we take them for their word and give them food when they need it. We talk to them, ask them what they need, and try to fill that need as best we can,” Says Coss.
“It's a grassroots effort, we don’t take money donations, we prefer product. It fills a need for kids who need a snack midday...we have in the past sent home bags of food,” Says Coss, “we had a woman last year that was a mom so we sent things home with her...we really try to meet whatever needs that students have.”
“Kids know it’s out there but we don’t necessarily publish it.” The Closet is confidential so no student needs to feel exposed or hesitate to ask for help. “Right now we’re not looking for clothing, mostly teen friendly toiletry items as well as toilet paper, Kleenex, laundry detergent and fabric softener, they can use that.” They’re also requesting teen-friendly snacks like fruit snacks, raisins, granola bars, applesauce, and microwave mac’n’cheese.
Donations may be brought to Bonnie McGraw in the East Lansing High School Counseling Office.
East Lansing High School is located at 509 Burcham Drive
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