Students learn business through thrift stores

KEOKUK (WGEM) – When Cayden King was in seventh grade, he saw students were in need of clothes and every day items.

“I thought of it and a couple of other kids agreed with it, we started making this room here, we made a thrift store so we can help kids that need clothes,” said King.

The Chief Exchange thrift store provides Keokuk students in need a chance to shop for gently used clothing and teaches the student workers how to run a business.

The shop also provides deodorant, toothbrushes and other toiletries to those students who may need them.

Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates, also known as iJAG, is partnering with the school, and is part of the reason why the thrift store is here, said President and CEO Laurie Phelan.

“Whenever young people can see themselves giving back and paying it forward in their community, even regardless of the struggles that those young people had in their own lives, it makes a huge difference,” said Phelan.

She said the mission of the program is to bridge the gap between academics and career for students.

“Helping young people see the relationship between academics and where they’re gonna go for the future, help them engage in their learning, attend school, but also plan for that future career,” said Phelan.

Now a freshman, King said working on the Chief Exchange has helped him realize what he wants to do in the future.

“I think I’m gonna go to college at Iowa and get a degree and be a lawyer and start up a lawyer business,” said King.

iJAG education specialist Ann Vandenberg said this year at the Chief Exchange, students can rent homecoming dresses for their dance coming up this weekend.

“My students decided to take it a step further by renting homecoming dresses to girls who maybe can’t afford it or don’t want to spend the money that it’s kind of becoming,” said Vandenberg.

Homecoming dresses cost $25 for high school students to rent, which will cover the cost of dry cleaning.

Students interested in renting a dress should contact Ann Vandenberg at Keokuk Middle School.

Vandenberg said she hopes to provide a prom dress rental service through the thrift store during the spring term of the school year.

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