August 26, 2016

How installing washing machines in schools can change students’ lives

Here are three stories from communities around the U.S. that will inspire you

Whirlpool is partnering with schools to provide students with better access to clean clothes. Photo courtesy of Whirlpool

Creative classroom solution: As the school year begins, teachers can expect students to miss class for a variety of personal and family reasons. For Dr. Melody Gunn, the former principal of Gibson Elementary in St. Louis, there was one reason that surprised her: access to clean clothes. Gunn discovered that her students were staying home because their families did not have washing machines, or if they did, they couldn’t afford detergent or even electricity. She reached out to the Whirlpool Corporation for help, and the company donated a washer and dryer to the school. “After just one month, we saw an impact,” Gunn told CityLab reporter Mimi Kirk. After one year of Whirlpool’s Care Counts program, 17 schools were able to provide more than 2,000 loads of laundry, and 93 percent of participating students had increased attendance. This coming school year, Whirlpool is expected to expand into 20 more schools.

Extracurricular education: Sam Sesay wants to use his experience as a college athlete to inspire high school students to get involved in their communities. As a member of George Mason University’s track team, he noticed that his fellow student-athletes put all their stock in their athletic careers. “Their only plan was to make it pro and they didn’t make it pro. They were pretty much lost in life,” he told The Undefeated’s Kelley D. Evans. “I wanted to help prevent that by providing these different athletes with different tools for them to succeed and really use sports as a vehicle to help to be successful in life or use the lessons that they learned in sports to be a vehicle to help the transition in their careers.” Sesay founded Game Plan Inc. to reach high school athletes and show them how they can be change agents in their communities, while also learning valuable work skills. The nonprofit recently teamed up with another organization that collects socks for the homeless. Lawtez Rogers from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, said she was proud to be a part of the program. “It was a great feeling being able to make a positive impact in the world.”

Lifting up women: For many community change agents, a great idea can come during life’s most mundane moments. For Chelsea VonChaz, it came while she was driving to work in Los Angeles, and she spotted a homeless woman with blood-stained pants. She called a local shelter and asked if they provided menstrual products. They said yes, but only when they’re available. “They said they were more likely to get donations of food, clothes, money―even toothbrushes or razor blades―than pads and tampons,” VonChaz told the Huffington Post‘s Sarah Grossman. And so VonChaz founded the nonprofit Happy Period to collect and distribute these items so essential for women and girls. Currently, Happy Period operates in nine cities in the U.S. and Canada.

See a story that inspires you? Send it to The Renewal Project editor Margaret Myers at

Margaret Myers

The Renewal Project editor