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星期五, 9月 09, 2016

BPS Superintendent Chang, Founders of Catie's Closet Open Store at Mather Elementary


BPS Superintendent Chang, Founders of Catie's Closet Open Store at Mather Elementary

BOSTON, Sept. 9, 2016 - Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Tommy Chang today joined several of the founders of Catie's Closet as the organization opened its first "store" in a Boston school where students in need can get, for free, clothing, sneakers, toiletries and other items to help them fit in at their school environment.

Superintendent Chang visited Mather Elementary, the nation's first public elementary school, for the unveiling of the district's inaugural Catie's Closet, a room painted in bright yellow and lined with shelves full of new khaki pants and blue polo shirts - the school's new uniform - as well popular brands of jeans, pants, coats, hoodies, sweaters, and T shirts, plus socks, underwear, hats and mittens. The room is also stocked with bins of shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and deodorant.
 
"We are so grateful to have Boston's first Catie's Closet at the Mather School. This amazing space will be vital in helping some of our most vulnerable students," Dr. Chang said. "We know many of our students face all kinds of barriers. Removing as many of them as we can is one of our top priorities as Boston Public Schools works to close the achievement gap."

"In Boston, I am proud that we have so many supportive partners who work every day to help our students, and I look forward to adding Catie's Closet to that number," said Mayor Walsh. "For students in need, Catie's Closet will help them look and feel their best. Thank you to all who have made this possible."

Catie's Closet was founded in 2010 in honor of Catherine "Catie" Bisson shortly after the 20-year-old Lowell woman died of a rare disease. The family-operated non-profit converts an unused room within a school into a safe space where a student living in poverty can choose - free of charge - the brand-name clothing and basic necessities that helps them walk confidently back into their classroom.

The organization is dedicated to improving school attendance and removing social stigmas in schools where the majority of the student body is living below the poverty line.

"We are thrilled to open our first school in Boston. The support we have received has been tremendous. The Boston business community has expressed great enthusiasm in helping us provide resources to students in need," said Anne-­Marie Bisson, board president of Catie's Closet and mother of Catie Bisson. "It is so wonderful that her legacy will live on here in Boston, helping support students."

Anne-Marie Bisson, along with her sisters (Denise Trombly, Susanne Harris and Mickey Cockrell), sister-in-law Laura Bisson, Catie's father Victor and close family friend Lynne Baril, formed Catie's Closet as a tribute to her loving daughter. Catie Bisson, a graduate of Lowell High School, was a sophomore at Bridgewater State University when she succumbed to Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, after enduring over 40 surgeries during her lifetime.

Her mother said that throughout her life, Catie empathized with fellow classmates who strived to fit in. As a high school student, Catie knew firsthand the plight of students who are homeless. She once wrote a college essay about the power of education, and felt strongly that education was not a privilege. Therefore, her family sought to honor her memory by helping kids succeed in school.

"Catie's Closet is a magical place. In each school we operate, we give children hope. We boost their self­ esteem by being able to walk into a room where they can take what they need and feel good about how they look and feel," said Mickey Cockrell, a former Kohl's vice president who is a co­-founder and the executive director of Catie's Closet. "As a result, students want to come to school and are better able to focus on their education. Having access to personal items free of charge makes such a difference in the lives of these children, their families and the community."

Catie's Closet engages the whole community in support of its mission through its 250 volunteers. Closet Champions assist by overseeing closets, hosting drives and donating their time. The organization has collected over 1 million pieces of new and gently used clothing at its central distribution center in Dracut.

The organization currently supports 18,000 students with 36 closets which serve 37 schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The first closet opened at Lowell High School in May 2010.

"Having our very own Catie's Closet will afford us the ability to serve all children throughout the year, giving comfort to students and families in need," said Mather Principal Rochelle Nwosu.

With additional monetary sponsorships, Boston Public Schools hopes to see the expansion of Catie's Closet to other schools throughout the system. The room at the Mather School was made possible by the generous support of anonymous donors who were brought together by Boston Cares,New England's largest volunteer mobilizer.  

"Catie's Closet really addresses one of those very important but unmet needs that might not seem obvious to everybody, but to educators it makes all the difference in boosting the confidence of students," said Patrice Keegan, executive director of Boston Cares. 'We are glad we were able to connect Catie's Closet with the Mather and our other partners."