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We got you covered! Staff-led project ensures students have culturally-appropriate clothing at school

  • Building Community

Stop in at any District 191 health office, and you’ll find bins of assorted clothing items that students can choose from when their own clothing gets soiled during the school day. 

Schools have always had back-up clothing available for students in case of spills and other accidents, including jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and socks, but have not always had hijabs or skirts for Muslim girls who wear them.

Maryan Ali, a cultural liaison at three District 191 schools and recipient of Burnsville’s Community Builder Award, decided it was time to change that. For a long time, she had a vision to supply all schools with culturally-appropriate clothing, particularly modest clothing and hijabs for Muslim girls.

The Burnsville Education Association (BEA) equity team took this project on and set a goal of $800. Gideon Pond staff Becca Buck and Janie Beeninga, a music and ESL teacher, respectively, joined Maryan on her quest to purchase clothing. They went to a local shop owned by a Gideon Pond family, followed by a stop at Children’s Choice at the Burnsville Center Mall, and then took several trips to Karmel Mall in Minneapolis. They purchased a total of 126 hijabs and 48 skirts in varying sizes, colors and styles.

The group also ordered One91 iron-on patches and hosted “Ironing Parties” for staff members to help apply patches to the clothing. After connecting with school nurses about specific needs at their buildings, the clothing was packed into bags and distributed to schools.

Remaining funds were given to Foundation 191, a non-profit organization driven by a volunteer board consisting of community members, alumni, parents and business people. The money will be used for future clothing needs that District 191 cultural liaisons identify.

The fundraiser has raised awareness and inspired several districts with large Muslim populations to do similar projects. 

“We don’t just say words, we work hard to take action,” said Maryan, regarding District 191’s mission to be inclusive and culturally-proficient in its work. “We believe that our schools should represent the students we serve, and this project is one way to show that.”

Community support for this project was astonishing. They raised nearly $3,000 – more than triple their goal – thanks to support from District 191 staff and community, as well as donors from around the country.

“This could not have happened if not for the multiple donors to this project, as well as all of those who donated time and materials,” said Buck. “Thank you!”

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