KEOKUK (WGEM) – When Kaiden King was in seventh grade, he saw that students needed clothes and everyday items.
“I thought about it and two other kids agreed with it, so we started working here, we started a thrift store so we could help kids who needed clothes,” King said.
The Main Exchange Thrift Store gives Keokuk students the opportunity to shop for gently used clothing and teaches student workers how to run a business.
The store provides deodorant, toothbrushes and other hygiene items to students who need them.
Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates, also known as iJAG, is partnered with the school, and that’s one of the reasons the thrift store is here, said Laurie Phelan, president and CEO.
“It makes a big difference when young people see themselves paying back in their community, no matter what struggles they’ve had in their own lives,” Phelan said.
She said the program’s mission is to bridge the gap between academics and students.
“Helping young people see the connection between academics and where they’re going in the future, helping them engage in their studies, helping them go to school, but also planning for a future career,” Phelan said.
King, now a freshman, said working at the swimming exchange helped him figure out what he wanted to do in the future.
“I think I’m going to go to college in Iowa, get a degree, become a lawyer and start a law firm,” King said.
Ann Vandenberg, education specialist at iJAG, said this year at the swim exchange students will be able to rent dresses for the upcoming dance this weekend.
“My students decided to take it a step further by renting homecoming dresses to girls who couldn’t afford it or didn’t want the money,” Vandenberg said.
Homecoming dresses cost $25 to rent for high school students, which covers the cost of dry cleaning.
Students interested in renting a gown should contact Anne Vandenberg at Keokuk Middle School.
Vandenberg said she hopes to offer a prom dress rental service through the chain store in the spring of the school year.
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