Middle schoolers open Jeep Boutique for kids in need

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Dubois Middle School eighth-grader Grace Lueken hangs clothes at the Jeep Boutique at the school on Thursday. "It's just fun to know we can help somebody who isn't as fortunate," Grace said. 


DUBOIS — A group of eighth-graders gave a room in the gym basement of Dubois Middle School a makeover last week, turning it into the Jeep Boutique.

Thanks to the students — Jordan Schweikarth, Grace Lueken, Sara Livingston, Paige Wildman, Kaitlyn Kline, Rhylan Kalb and Emma Betz — the room is stocked with secondhand clothing in various sizes, jewelry, school supplies, personal care items and just about anything a student could need. Dubbed Jeep Boutique, the room is part of the school’s efforts to reach out to students in need.

“I know there’s a lot of kids that have it harder,” Kaitlyn said. “This is a way to help them out.”

Jeep Boutique grew out of a visit to the school from Rachel’s Challenge, a pro-kindness organization founded by the family of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. The organization makes presentations at schools and communities across the country to encourage people to reach out in kindness to those around them. The program’s website quotes data from the National Center for School Engagement that says 160,000 students skip school every day for fear of bullies. Rachel’s family and the program’s presenters are out to decrease that number.

Two years ago, Rachel’s Challenge visited Northeast Dubois schools, inspiring eighth grade math teacher Julie Neukam and school counselor Camille Berg to put together a free community garage sale for the area’s families in need. They held the garage sale before registration for the 2016-17 school year and began planning something more permanent as soon as it ended.

“Middle school is a hard age,” Neukam said. “Name brands become important, and kids start to realize what they can or can’t have.”

Dubois Middle School eighth-graders Jordan Schweikarth, front, Kaitlyn Kline and Paige Wildman label shoe sizes at the Jeep Boutique at the school on Thursday. 

This year, Neukam and Berg roped in the eighth grade students to help. The school collects donations of gently used clothing and other necessities, then staff members identify students who may be in need and bring them to Jeep Boutique to discretely get the items they need. The goal is to get students into clothes that fit properly and that are in style.

That’s where the eighth-graders come in. The students are in charge of sorting through the donations — they have a closet brimming with boxes still to be sorted — and anything that wouldn’t appeal to a middle school student is sent to St. Vincent de Paul in Jasper.

Last week, the girls got the chance to stock Jeep Boutique with new items. Dubois Middle School received a grant from the TransCanada Pipeline to outfit the shop. The girls were excited to have their project receive the boost.

“We thought if we opened the store, we could help people,” Paige said.

Jeep Boutique officially opened this week. Those wishing to donate can drop items off at the middle school office, 4550 N. Fourth St., Dubois.



Dubois Middle School eighth-grader Rhylan Kalb folds clothes at the Jeep Boutique store at the school on Thursday.

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