Students in need of professional attire for job interviews, class presentations and other occasions now can rent blazers at the on-campus Knights Helping Knights Pantry.
Students enrolled in classes can rent one of 30 blazers for five business days with just their student ID. Fourteen men’s blazers and 16 women’s blazers are available in various sizes.
“The service is open to all students who could benefit from it,” said Alexander Botchen, KHK Pantry manager. “Any college student may not have money for a $70 blazer, so this allows us to provide that service to a broader audience and reduce any stigma that a student may have of coming to us for help.”
The blazers were bought during the summer with $2,000 provided by the Student Government Association as one of former President Cait Zona’s final initiatives. Under the current leadership of President Chris Clemente, SGA and KHK Pantry have continued to partner on this initiative. About 25 students have used the service since it launched Oct. 17, Botchen said.
“First and foremost we would like to thank the Cait and Jarell [Jones] administration for laying the groundwork for this service,” said Clemente. “The blazer-rental program allows the outward appearance expectations of the business environment to be met. Students can now feel confident entering the workforce.”
KHK Pantry has been a leader among Florida universities since it was founded in 2009 by LEAD Scholars students. It was one of the only university-based, student-serving pantries at the time in the state, and today it’s among one of the first to offer this kind of professional-attire service, Botchen said.
The pantry was founded on a mission to provide free necessities – food, toiletries and more – to students who may encounter financial difficulties, and to ensure students never need to choose between buying textbooks or food. More than 13,300 students sought resources from the pantry in the 2015-16 school year, up from about 6,700 students in 2011-12, the oldest data available, Botchen said. The high demand has driven the pantry to explore other ways it can help students because the need is widespread.
Under 20 percent of students have parents who are able to pay all of their college expenses, according to data from the national College & University Food Bank Alliance. Plus, in 2013, nearly 52 percent of U.S. college students who were not living on campus or with relatives lived at or near the poverty level, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. So far the KHK Pantry has seen mostly existing pantry clients use the rental service, Botchen said.
“We heard from a student who checked out a blazer for an interview that he’s been granted a second interview,” Botchen said. “He said he felt more confident and if not for the opportunity to rent the blazer, his confidence in himself might not have been that high. This service is essential because it gives students the opportunity to make a good impression in interviews and show they are a qualified candidate for a position.”
The blazer-rental service joins other clothing resources offered at KHK Pantry. Students also can pick out to keep five donated business attire items and enough donated casual attire items to meet their need.