Every year, Western Technical College’s Business Management students help organize and create Suits for Success, a one-day, free shopping experience held on campus. The event is open to the community, offering individuals a chance to pick out professional clothing at no cost. In recent years, the event has expanded, offering tie tying demonstrations, resume reviews, and professional headshots to students and members of the community who normally couldn’t afford them. The class is part of Western’s Community Engagement program, where classes work on service learning projects that help benefit the community.
“You can see their faces gleaming, as they may have never tried on a suit before, or they’ve never had the means or access to this clothing for a job interview,” said Shannon Corcoran, the instructor leading the class. “It’s just a very rewarding event – not only for our students, but seeing how we can meet the needs of the community.”
Last year’s event was one of the last in-person events held at Western before COVID-19 closed the majority of campus. Even last fall, Corcoran wasn’t sure what, if anything, could be done to keep Suits for Success going in 2021.
“I was very concerned that we weren’t going to be able to have the event,” said Corcoran. “But beginning in the fall, we started to look at ways to host the event in a safe manner. We looked at how retail and other businesses were surviving during the pandemic.”
Like every other business and organization, Corcoran, along with her students, developed an alternative way to keep the Suits for Success tradition alive while adhering to safety protocols. They knew curbside had to be an option.
This year, participants will sign up ahead of time, indicating their preferences on color, style, size, and need. The setup was inspired by a popular online personal styling service that ships individually selected clothing and accessory items to participants for purchase..
Ahead of the distribution, students in the class are collaborating with area organizations to collect gently-used professional clothing. Students will also be collecting clothing in a drive-through format on Friday, March 12, from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Parking Lot C on Western’s main campus, 400 7th St. N., La Crosse. Donations are also being accepted ahead of time at Altra Federal Credit Union, Associated Bank, and Firefighters Credit Union in La Crosse and Onalaska.
The distribution of the clothing takes place on Friday, March 26, from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., again at Western’s Parking Lot C. Participants will drive up to collect their boxes of clothing. and are asked to remain in their vehicles and wear masks while students deliver the clothing to them. The team is also working on ways to deliver resume help, demonstrations, and interview tips in a virtual format.
“I’ve been amazed at what our students have come up with this term,” said Corcoran. “They have been very resilient, finding new ways and adaptations and working through everything around us. There have been roadblocks this year, but they have found new and creative ways to host the event. I am so proud of them this year.”
To sign up for a clothing package, visit www.tinyurl.com/getsuits2021.