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Fixing Education Starts With A Fresh T-shirt

For one in five students, absenteeism is as simple as not having enough clean clothes

By now, we all know, education is the key to success. It’s that simple. But for thousands of kids across America, the simple act of picking a t-shirt and jeans is enough to stop them in their tracks. While most students skip school every now and then because they get sick or go on vacation, for many others, absences are the result of unstable living environments or unreliable transportation.

In California, chronic absence is defined as being absent for at least 10 percent of the school year, which is 18 days in your average 180-day school year. According to a study published in School Psychology Quarterly, elementary school students who miss five days are more likely to drop out, with each missed day after that increasing the chances of not graduating by seven percent.

However, what casual observers might not realize is that, for one in five U.S. students, absenteeism is as simple as not having enough clean clothes. To help solve the problem, Whirlpool introduced a program called “Care Counts,” which donates washers and dryers to schools so students can wash their clothes without worry. In the first year of the program, 17 schools across two school districts provided 2,500 loads of clean clothes to their students.

According to Whirlpool data, teachers reported a more than 90 percent improvement in attendance among participating students, with an average of six additional days spent in school compared to the year before. Surveys conducted by Whirlpool showed 95 percent of students using the program reported being more motivated in class and more likely to engage in extracurricular activities. Whirlpool’s Brand Manager, Chelsey Lindstrom, said in a press release:

“When we learned that a child’s education could be at risk because they do not have access to clean clothes, we were determined to help. It’s incredible to see how the simple act of laundry can have such a profound impact on students’ lives and we are excited to bring this resource to even more schools across the country.”

With plans to extend its “Care Counts” program to at least 30 more schools across the country in the next year, the appliance company hopes to increase retention rates and generally improve the lives of this country’s most vulnerable students.

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