New Outfits for New Jobs for Students at CUNY
Since its inception in 1992 as a state
funded program, the College Opportunity to Prepare for Employment (COPE)
equipped CUNY degree students, receiving public assistance, for full-time employment—but until recently, it never dressed them.
One of the last places one expects to find hundreds of suits, shoes, handbags,
jackets and jewelry, CUNY’s La Guardia Community College, has become the
epicenter of professional dress, flowing with garments in all styles and sizes
personally purchased by Carolyn Everett. This April, Carolyn Everett, Executive
Director of CUNY Economic Development Corporation founded Edith’s Place, the
office-wear supply program, named after her mother Edith Everett and announced
at the seventh annual COPE symposium.
Edith’s Place provides clothing to COPE and POISED (Perfect Opportunity for
Individual and Educational Development) for Success students who wish to enter
their promising futures of full time employment properly attired and in style.
According to Deborah Douglass, Executive Director for Education and Training
Opportunity Programs, the program did much more than that. Edith’s Place has not only increased
students’ style savvy, it has also boosted their morale.
The idea for the program was spontaneous. One day as Everett was cleaning her
office, adjacent to that of Douglass, at the CUNY center headquarters on East
80th Street, Everett offered Douglass a jacket. “I said it won’t fit me, but it
will fit my students,” Douglass said.
Thus, Carolyn Everett, scion of a
philanthropic family, turned the idea of supplementing a practical career
education with a matching wardrobe into a new reality. “I’ve never seen so many clothes in my
life,” Douglass said. “She’s purchased many different types of outfits, quality
and quantity from petites to women sizes,” she added.
On a cold wintry day, Douglass said, Everett wondered if COPE students would be
cold. “She sent out well over 100 jackets to the campuses,” Douglass said. “She
got matching mittens and mufflers to go with them.”
In preparation for the symposium, which
attracted a crowd of about 450, Everett personally outfitted students to model
the first outfits from Edith’s Place. Edith Everett, in attendance for an
interesting symposium, was taken by complete surprise when her daughter
announced the establishment of Edith’s Place, a fitting tribute to the founder
of the Everett Children’s Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, benefactor
of numerous schools, programs and causes throughout many years and member of
the CUNY Board of Trustees for 23 years as well as Vice Chair. Truly, Edith
Everett has dedicated a great part of her life to enhancing the lives of CUNY’s
Douglass and Everett made the decision that all the clothing should be new. “We
believed that the psychological impact of having new garments that the student
(both men and women) selected specifically based on their own needs and tastes
was critical in raising their self-esteem and confidence when they walked into
an interview competing for a position, which is nerve-racking for them, even
under the best circumstances,” said Everett. Each student works directly with
their counselor and someone who is familiar with the facility’s inventory, and
are guided, one-on-one, through the process of selecting the appropriate
attire. They are able to try on
various outfits, and in a respectful and tactful manner, we help them choose
what is appropriate for the type of position for which they are applying. We go out of our way to make sure that
they are able to take home with them merchandise that suits their individual
tastes, feels comfortable for them, and will feel proud to wear. Douglass describes Everett as having
“spirit and energy and kindheartedness that were truly inspiring.”
Heather Barridge-Manning, COPE director at John Jay College, said that her
student returned from Edith’s Place “beaming,” because she had also gotten a
pair of leather shoes. “Seeing my student in the suit which she loved so much
was such a treat for me since in 3+ years this was the only time I had seen her
in a suit,” she said. “She looked so professional and ready to take on the
world of work.” The student landed the job of her choice with T-Mobile, and is
applying to graduate school.
According to Douglass, COPE “provides academic and support services, including
job placement, to help students meet public assistance obligations … and degree
requirements so that they can graduate and qualify for employment leading to
economic self-sufficiency.” POISED is a similar program that serves women who
are pregnant or have children under three years of age. POISED and COPE are
funded by and operated in collaboration with the Family Independence
Administration of the City of New York Human Resources Administration.
The temporary location of Edith’s place is NY Designs, which is New York’s only
business incubator providing business services and space to design businesses
(defined broadly, from architecture, fashion, graphic and web design, to the
design of furniture, jewelry, and tabletop products), which is on the campus of
LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens. NY Designs is a part of the CUNY
Business Incubator Network, which is managed by CUNY Economic Development
information about COPE or POISED contact Deborah Douglass at 212-794-4549.