Students participating in the Fashion Expo program walk the ‘runway’ showing off their new professional attire. Students received a $250 clothing grant to purchase professional clothing from the Office of Career Development and Internships.
(Photo: Moriah Avery ’21)

Berea College’s clothing grant transforms students into professionals

Making a good impression during an interview is a key factor in getting that job. Besides giving the right answers, looking and feeling good is important as well. For a Berea College student, dressing professionally can be a new, unfamiliar, and even foreign experience, and, for this, the College offers students a Clothing Fund grant.

Through the Office of Internships and Career Development, students can receive financial assistance to buy professional clothes.

“We try to help the students buy a brand new suit and smaller pieces to help them build a professional wardrobe for when they start working, going to grad school or other future endeavors,” said Trisha Turner, career development coordinator.

In addition, as a way to promote the $250 grant, the department hosts a fashion show, which began last fall. Partnering with a Macy’s stylist, Turner and Amanda Tudor decided to invite students to see their peers modeling various professional looks and business attire. While doing so, the stylist explains the look and offers tips and recommendations. After that, the students sign a contract agreeing to certain terms and conditions and then receive an invitation to go on the shopping trip.

The shopping trip transports students to Lexington to shop for clothes. As an added bonus, Turner explained that Macy’s opens the store exclusively to these students so they can shop before the store is open to the public.

“We will have breakfast, coffee, help the students shop, and get discounts,” Turner said. “Fun, shopping and clothes,” she said with a laugh. “Seeing students try on clothes and feel professional is fun.”

This year, the department added the Fashion Expo program, which is available to all students who want to participate. It consists of various activities, including a makeup artist who gives makeup and skin care tips, as well as access to tailors to measure male students for suits. Turner explained that the event was created as a way to help students reach out earlier, so when they go to Macy’s or any other store, they are not as lost. She emphasized the importance of wanting people to look their best.

No matter what career you’re in, Berea College wants you to be professional.

Neidy Rodríguez

“Not all colleges do this,” Turner said. “It can be very stressful to find a nice suit or nice outfit to wear to an interview. We don’t want students to be stressed out about what they’re wearing. We want them to focus on where they want to go, what they’re going to say, and getting the job.”

The clothing grant is just one more way Berea invests in its students. “It made me feel prepared, like I was professional,” said Neidy Rodríguez, a recipient of the fund. “No matter what career you’re in, Berea College wants you to be professional.”

Looking ahead, Turner said she would like to increase the amount of the grant so students can buy more clothing. But looking past the money, she wants students to have fun with the experience. Often times, students feel confused or lost, so the objectives of both the Fashion Show and Fashion Expo are simultaneously guidance and reassurance for students in their path to looking professional.

“I want this to be an event students look forward to attending,” Turner said. She recalled several instances where students who participated in the program aced their interviews and landed internships and jobs.

“The program is helpful in adequately preparing students to look the part of a professional,” said Aaron M.J. Lange, a model for this year’s fashion show and a grant recipient.

Like him, other students have shown their gratitude to the college.

“I think the fact that they consider giving us money shows us—shows me—that they believe I have a chance to do and to be something more than just a student,” Rodríguez said. “They want me to succeed.”

Hearing success stories and seeing the students trying on clothes is a motivation for Turner.

“The department wants to help people know what they want to look like in the professional world, what their fashion sense is, and how to make it appropriate so that they can put their best foot forward.”

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