Hattiesburg High School - Pandemic Partnership Response

Hattiesburg High School (Hattiesburg School District) with Venture Church, Edwards Street Fellowship, Junior Auxiliary. “PAWSet” is a resource project created to meet both the resource needs of the students while creating a real-life environment that simulated vocational learning experiences to teach students with disabilities valuable pre-employment skills.

The Hattiesburg High School Resource Project, “PAWSet”, was initiated during the fall semester of the 2021-2022 school year. The PAWSet Resource Room earned its name by combining HHS’s mascot (Tigers/Paws) with Closet. Following an on-campus transition-employment fair, a teacher realized that many of our students did not have appropriate clothing to attend job interviews. An incident occurred where a student approached a teacher requesting to borrow his pants to attend an interview. The student was wearing sweat pants and explained that he did not have access to appropriate pants. The student admitted he was wearing his nicest clothing—jogger pants—and worried he would not get the job in that attire. The teacher immediately agreed to loan his pants to the student for the interview and the assistant principal agreed to share his belt. Although the student had a desire to gain community employment, he did not have the resources to purchase the needed attire. According to research conducted by the Commonwealth
Institute (2014), findings suggest there are fewer opportunities and decreased educational outcomes for students with limited access to resources.

The teacher (Mr. Smith) shared his idea of providing the students of HHS with access to interview  clothing. As a result of the teacher’s observation and discussion with colleagues, an increase in staff
awareness made it evident that student needs also included access to washers/washing service, basic hygiene items, and school uniforms. Further, upon review of school discipline and attendance records, it was noted that students were missing a significant amount of instruction due to disciplinary actions for. dress code violations. An additional aspect affecting student achievement included district-wide COVID protocols which limited off-campus vocational learning experiences for students with disabilities. The team developed a plan, the PAWSet, to meet both the resource needs of the students while creating a real life environment that simulated vocational learning experiences to teach students with disabilities valuable pre- employment skills.

The PAWSet team realized the plan to transform a classroom into a resource room for all students would require a large amount of materials and manpower. Although the initial set up would require supplies and volunteers, ongoing sustainability also had to be considered and planned for. A partnership was formed between Hattiesburg High School PAWSet team, Venture Church, Edwards Street Fellowship, and Hattiesburg Junior Auxiliary. Venture Church was eager to provide volunteers, building materials, personal
hygiene items, and labor/installation. Edwards Street Fellowship generously supplied all needed clothing for initial setup (school uniforms, interview clothing, shoes, etc...) as well as pledged to provide ongoing supplies to maintain sustainability. The Junior Auxiliary has provided monetary donations for warm clothing and coats.

Students, staff, and parents are able to make referrals and requests through an online, confidentiality- sensitive system. The online request is then sent to the PAWSet team members who escort the students to the resource center where they get to choose their own clothing, shoes and hygiene items. Students with disabilities who are enrolled in the prevocational class assist by setting up the resource room, conducting inventories, hanging clothing, sorting items, completing
care tickets, and laundering clothing.