Sunday, November 07, 1999

Warm the Children purchases uniforms for Cheney students

Warm the Children purchases uniforms for Cheney students
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Students at the New Cheney Academy of Math and Sciences in Ypsilanti Township started out this school year with something completely different from most Washtenaw County public schools--uniforms.

But before classes began in late August, Leslie Rosenwasser, a social worker at the K-7 academy in the Willow Run district, found herself with a last-minute problem to solve.

Some parents, she learned, couldn’t afford the cost of a $25 uniform. For a few parents with more than one child at Cheney, the cost automatically jumped up to $50 or $75, plus the price of shoes.

“What we never wanted to do was to exclude any student because they couldn’t buy the uniform,” Rosenwasser said. “Everyone should come in with the same advantage.” So Rosenwasser approached the Warm the Children Fund to make sure all Cheney students had uniforms.

Warm the Children dipped into the emergency and special cases funds for money to help buy uniforms for students. Warm the Children also approached Kmart on Rawsonville Road in Van Buren Township to help pick up some of the cost, Rosenwasser said.

“We decided to donate $100 worth of merchandise,” General Manager Mark Kerns said. He estimated that Kmart gave Cheney Academy students about 7-8 uniforms since the pants and shirts were being sold at a reduced price then.

Then the Warm the Children Fund provided the school with an additional 12-15 uniforms, saving parents a total of $500-$600.

“I think it’s a wonderful program. It helps less fortunate people as well as people who may not be able to afford uniforms at a time of need,” said Lisa Watkins, a parent of three Cheney academy students and a paraprofessional for Thurston Early Childhood Development Center.

Watkins also said she’s glad that Cheney has the new uniform dress code in place. She said several of her friends wish their children’s schools would require uniforms as well.

“It’s a good thing financially for parents because you’re not worried about buying a whole lot of different things,” she said.

Looking at it from a Cheney student’s perspective, Watkins said. Uniforms make everyone equal and help build self-esteem.

“No one knows if you have one uniform or 10 uniforms,” she said. “This way, you don’t have the competition, ‘Well you have designer clothes and you don’t’ ”.

Many of the older students in the six5th or seventh grades who attended the school before Cheney became specialized were not used to wearing uniforms and balked at the idea initially, Principal Teresa Wilson said. But now, most of Cheney’s 335 students have come to like the camaraderie that comes with wearing a color-coordinated uniform like everyone else.

With white shirts and navy blue pants, skirts and jumpers as the uniform, even teachers, the school custodian, secretary and parents have started coming to Cheney dressed in support of the school’s official colors, Rosenwasser said.

Rosenwasser believes Cheney is a stronger school and stronger community because of the uniforms.

“We’re kind of all in this together. It’s just like we’re all alike in some ways, the teachers too,” she said.

Originally published Sunday, November 7, 1999