“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Secret Boutique is a different kind of clothing closet. We do more than provide students in need and those in foster care with a few free changes of clothes; we create change — in their lives, our lives, and in the daily lives of the communities we serve.
On any given day, approximately 160,000 American students skip school because they are being bullied — often because of their appearance (See “Sierra’s Story”). Some students drop out of school to avoid being bullied, while others even commit suicide to escape the torment. We work to stop that by building self-esteem and providing:
- Free, fashionable clothing in secret, upscale retail-type settings where our customers are VIPs treated to an incredible “shopping” experience. Our locations are never disclosed to the public, and you’ll never read or hear about them in the media. This helps our VIPs feel safe and protects their identities.
- Fashion advice, wardrobe consultations, and Personal Shopping Support. We want our students to look their best, and feel good about it. Our consultants are available to help students select fashionable, gently-used, often name-brand clothes that are well suited to their personal style, their body type, and the current season. We know students want to express their own personal style, so while we offer these service, our VIPs leave with clothes they have selected for themselves and are excited about wearing. We also offer fun, uplifting workshops to help our student learn how to stretch their wardrobes and budgets, care for their clothes, repurpose items, and even make some of their own fashions and accessories.
- Free hair cuts, styling services, manicures and pedicures, and personal care products. Regardless of the clothes one wears, a great hair cut can make an outfit — and an attitude. We treat our VIPs to some of the same styling services found in professional salons so that they, too, can experience the self-confidence that comes with great hair and body care.
- Beauty, Fitness, Health, and Wellness classes. It’s not enough to look your best; you must feel your best in order to be your best and share that with others. We teach students how to properly care for their skin and hair, eat healthy on a budget, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise the right way without having to go to the gym. Because wellness isn’t just about the body, we host classes on such topics as peaceful living, managing stress, and building healthy relationships. We also offer basic classes on such topics as personal finance, to help our students build a strong foundation for life.
- Volunteer opportunities for students and adults designed to foster a sense of community and provide a network of support for students who are often targeted by bullies. We empower all students and their participating adults to stand firm on a foundation of love and peace in the face of injustice, trusting that through the experience their lives will be forever changed. With this in mind, we develop curriculum for student groups to ensure that their time at Secret Boutique is truly transformative, and we host large-group events that bring our student volunteers and VIPs together for Bible study, games, fellowship, and other service opportunities. We also encourage out VIPs to become volunteers and experience this transformative experience from the other side of the clothing racks. We want them to not only find happiness in being served and treated as royalty, but discover the soul-deep joy of serving others.
- Anti-bullying, anger management, and conflict resolution education. Because true beauty is about what’s on the inside, we educate our students, their friends, and the public on ways to prevent bullying, control anger, and successfully manage conflicts. In turn, they become ambassadors for a happier, healthier community.
Why Secret Boutique?
We all want to look good and feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, for too many middle- and high-school students, this seems to be out of reach — particularly for those who live in poverty or on its fringes.
That’s the case in our community and in communities around the country. We want to do something about that. We don’t understand why, in a country as blessed as the United States, any child should be in a position to be ridiculed or bullied because of what they wear, how their hair looks, or how their body smells. Simply put, there’s no reason for it to ever happen.
But it does, and far too often.
- Each day, approximately 160,000 students skip school to avoid being bullied, the National Education Association reports, with approximately 13 million school students being affected by bullying each year.
- Sixty-two percent of NEA teachers and education support professionals polled for a 2010 study “indicated they’d witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month. Forty-one percent indicated they’d witnessed bullying once a week or more.”
- A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “(u)p to to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress,” The New York Times reported.
- The Times also reported that frequent absences have been linked to low academic achievement and high dropout rates. The article cited studies suggesting a direct correlation between attendance and academic performance, and suggesting “that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do.”
- According to the Times’ report, “(p)oor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school.”
“This a social justice issue for us because bullying compromises students’ basic right to learn and grow in a safe environment,” former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in 2012 when he headed the labor union.
It’s a social justice issue for us, too, one we take seriously because we view each child in our community as members of one family — the family of God.
Three ways to help
1. Donate: Share your clothing, cash, or new un-opened personal care products.
2. Volunteer: We can always use more volunteers.
3. Sponsor: Sponsor a student, an event, or become a business partner.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org