FLINT, MI – Flint teens in need of professional clothing for a job interview or other formal event now have access to a closet full of options.
Current Flint School Board of Education President Casey Lester and Flint Southwestern Classical Academy Principal Christopher Ochodnicky joined forces this year to create a program where students can borrow suits and other professional wear for various occasions.
Due to COVID-19, the program has not been used by students yet. However, Lester and Ochodnicky said they look forward to having the program available when it is safe to gather again.
The suits will be located at Southwestern Classical Academy in a room the school is calling “The Jag Spot,” Ochodnicky said, describing it as a little clothing store where students can pick out professional clothing for events like interviews, senior exit presentations, homecoming or prom.
“Of course, these events we’re not able to make happen right now because of the COVID situation but we’re playing the long game on this,” Ochodnicky said. “If, for whatever reason, a student didn’t have a dress or suit and tie for one of these events, we’ll be able to help them out.”
Kids can reach out to either Ochodnicky or Lester to access the clothing program.
Lester and his wife opened a men’s boutique in downtown Flint one year ago called The Roman. Before COVID-19 hit Michigan, the store held workshops including “how to tie a tie.”
“I started thinking about my first professional interview and how terrible I was at it,” Lester said. “I didn’t have a tie, my shirt was untucked – I probably wasn’t even wearing a belt quite honestly. My dad worked at GM, he was a Marine. We just didn’t dress up.”
This inspired Lester to create a program where Flint youth could come in and borrow professional clothing. Multiple community members donated suits to the store. Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners in Clio offered free dry cleaning services for the program.
“Everything was geared up, ready to go and then COVID hit,” Lester said. “Then my garage was basically just a defunct men’s warehouse with 60 used suits in it. They sat there for quite some time and then it hit me that it would be a great fit for the Flint Community Schools.”
Lester reached out to Superintendent Anita Steward who told him Principal Ochodnicky was working on a similar program. The two combined resources to launch the program.
Lester is currently serving on the Flint district’s school board, but Lester did not run for reelection this year. Despite no longer serving on the board come January, Lester said he looks forward to continuing volunteer work at Flint schools.
“At the end of the day, the school board position is a governing body but as citizens we all need to be operating in a sense of compassion as more of a philanthropic body,” Lester said. “I’ll never stop partnering with Flint schools regardless of what my position is.”