On Wednesday, Nov. 13, a small room on the first floor of Shibles Hall was alive with Christmas music and a rainbow of professional clothes donated by current and former educators. Organizers from the University of Maine’s Education Association (MEA), including Jarod Webb, Martha Gladstone and Rebecca Weeks, held a Professional Clothing Swap to give student teachers and education students professional attire at no cost.

Although the event started out small, as time went by more people showed up. Between ten and eight people showed up. Most of the people there were either members of UMaine’s MEA, education students and/or organizers. Many students that showed up were thankful for the opportunity to get professional clothing at no cost to them.

According to Gladstone, a doctoral student and adviser to UMaine’s MEA, appropriate, professional and modest attire is an important part of being a student teacher. Unfortunately, many students cannot afford this type of clothing due to personal costs like tuition, rent and gas money. Gladstone professed that this event was important for student teachers who were trying to pay their bills.

“As a former teacher…I know the hardship that it is for them to be able to afford the gas to get to their student teaching placements, [and] afford their rent and food. One of the hardest things they have coming up with money for is clothing,” Gladstone said.

The students at this event reiterated Gladstone’s perspective and emphasized that having affordable options for professional clothing are important to allow them to continue their pursuit of education.

Rebecca Weeks, a fourth-year early childhood and elementary education student and vice president of UMaine’s Student MEA, expressed how important she found affordable professional attire.

“As teachers, you are required to have professional attire, and here we are, as college students [and] not everyone has money to go out and buy professional clothing, which is very expensive,” Weeks noted.

Weeks explained that professional clothing swaps like these are helpful to many education students. Weeks believed that this swap had the potential to provide student teachers with work-appropriate attire: a valuable resource for many student teachers.

“We wanted to do this to give opportunities to people who don’t have the resources, or the money, or whatever it is, to get some extra clothes,” Weeks said.

While professional attire can be expensive, the lack of professional attire can prevent graduates from landing jobs which they have worked hard for. Community events which connect students with resources to ease the financial burden of starting out in a new field are effective ways to address concerns like these, and promote economic growth for graduate students. Through community resources, UMaine students will have the tools that they need to be successful as they pursue their careers.