Raising hope while maintaining style!

The Phoenix Flair clothing store on the campus of Pinellas County Job Corps was created to help students find appropriate clothing and accessories to wear on job interviews.

BY ANN SHERMAN-WHITE, M.ED., Pinellas County Job Corps, Business Community Liaison and Student Government Association Advisor

ST. PETERSBURG — The excitement of looking good when you step off an elevator headed to your first interview can only be surpassed by knowing you are dressed too impressed. But for some, having the perfect tie for the perfect suit is but a mere dream. Having a dress accented with a stylish yet professional scarf, purse or accessory for some is not an option.

With the help and partnership of Raising Hope, a program with Eckerd Connects, the opportunity to be well-dressed for an interview or a post-graduation career is no longer a fleeting thought but a reality.

Last June, Eckerd Connects and Raising Hope approached ODLE Management and the Pinellas County Job Corps Center (PCJCC) with an idea. PCJCC was presented with an opportunity to expand its reach to include students on campus.

With the expertise of running a clothing store specifically designed to meet the needs of children in foster care, who often have only the clothing on their backs or in a backpack, Raising Hope was prepared to help fill the gap by providing slightly worn clothes.

Fast forward to the addition of myself to the PCJCC team, where my background in fashion, modeling, and soft-skill training for those preparing to enter the workforce is extensive. You now have the emergence of the PCJCC student clothing store, specifically designed to provide garments for students interviewing for prospective jobs.

To further add a sense of excitement and commitment by Eckerd Connects, Raising Hope, and ODLE Management, the student clothing store will serve as a prototype for future stores on other job corps centers.

The store is complete. The clothing racks and shoe displays are stocked. The only thing left was for students to decide on a name for their store’s new, sleek style! After weeks of submissions and virtual voting by the student body, the Phoenix Flair was born!

Since its completion, students line up to shop while social distancing. And it is the contributions from Raising Hope, coupled with donations from staff members and community partners, that keep students coming back.

With its storefront mannequins dressed in an array of outfits and old-school hip-hop blasting from the speakers, one could close their eyes and feel transformed back into The Limited, Contempo Casuals, Oak Tree, or Maas Brother’s era. Phoenix Flair is truly a hit. Students no longer have to piece together interview attire because Phoenix Flair has it all!

Ann Sherman-White

What’s up next for the Phoenix Flair and the students of the PCJCC? Perhaps a fashion show to show others how items that have been gently worn and donated can be fashionable, fly, and professional!

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