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October 4, 2017
Down a winding corridor to a back room at Bartow Middle lies a new place where students can find essential items.
What once housed the school’s instructional television program is now a fully-stocked closet, with clothing, toiletries and school supplies. English teacher Sam Swafford spent time during the summer preparing the room to resemble a boutique.
Swafford began the initiative after learning about the needs of Bartow Middle’s underprivileged students.
“I was shocked by the number of kids living with grandparents, at shelters and in single-parent households,” she said.
Swafford, who began teaching at Bartow Middle the last nine weeks of the 2016-17 school year, enlisted support for her boutique. With the help of her husband constructing racks, and other volunteers pitching in, Swafford designed the space and collected gently used and new clothing, backpacks, belts, toiletries and other necessities.
Help also came from employees at the school, as well as her former colleagues at Highland City Elementary, and Swafford’s high school classmates from outside of Florida.
The closet has served 17 students so far, based on need.
“I wanted them to come in and feel like they were really shopping,” Swafford said. “The ones who have been in here have been appreciative, and it has helped with their attitude.”
Providing this service to students has broken barriers and instilled a sense of pride, said Bartow Middle Principal Christopher Roberts.
“It gives them dignity,” he said.
For more information about how to donate, contact Bartow Middle School at 863-534-7415 or visit the school at 550 E. Clower St., Bartow.