How TRU is helping students dress for success - InfoNews

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How TRU is helping students dress for success

Elder Trish Terry (left) and Sultan Sandur are some of the faces behind the university's Suit Up For Work event. The clothing event allowed students to drop by and pick out professional work attire for their practicum for free.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Stacey Olson-Steele
January 16, 2020 - 3:00 PM

When Thompson Rivers University lecturer Roxane Letterlough overheard a group of her students worrying about having to purchase a new wardrobe for their first practicum, she knew she wanted to help in any way she could.

Many students in her Indigenous cohort are single mothers or come from low-income backgrounds, she says, which makes affording new clothes even more challenging.

“Many of them have also relocated from areas like Chase, Merritt or Lillooet,” she says. “The university expects you to complete a practicum and then there is that added cost of the clothing to go into your practicum which is almost like a textbook.”

Letterlough, along with the help of her mother Trish Terry the program’s Elder mentor, began collecting used clothing from family and friends after she put out a call to social media.

By taking up the space in her office and a nearby boardroom, Letterlough organized a small space for her 12 students to come through and pickup the clothing they needed.

It was well received and Letterlough decided to bring the project’s success during a faculty council meeting.

Through the meeting, Letterlough teamed up with Sultan Sandur a Master of Education student with a background in fashion and styling. For Sandur, helping Letterlough expand this project was a natural fit for him.

“It’s more than just clothes, it’s actually helping students feel confident and be prepared to enter the work force and their practicums.”

A second clothing event was planned but this time it would be open to all the students in the School of Education and Social Work.

“It was kind of like a two-part thing, it started off small and then we thought wait a minute, there is such a good response let’s open it and make it bigger,” Letterlough says.

For the second event — named Suit Up for Work — students were able to drop in or book a time with Sandur to receive help putting together outfits.

“A lot of (students) were like ‘This is free?’ and they kept saying they felt like they were taking too much but no, that’s what this is for, take as much as you need, we can always get more,” Letterlough says.

Plans are currently underway through the university's Career Services and Student Services to create an ongoing campus closet, according to Stacey Olson-Steele, assistant to the Dean of Education and Social work. 

Students can watch for a fashion show to kick it off in February, she says. 

— This story was updated at 9:37 a.m. on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, to clarify plans are underway for an ongoing campus closet at TRU.


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