Attendance and participation has increased dramatically since the program started.
Having just finished their second year, Whirlpool’s program for installing laundry equipment at schools has resulted in increased attendance by students who are disadvantaged and unable to do their laundry elsewhere. Whirlpool’s Care Counts pilot program was monitored across more than a dozen schools across the U.S. and found to be highly successful.
School attendance rose by 90% and participation rose by 89% just because kids now have clean clothes to wear every day. About 95% of students had more motivation in class and 95% of kids participated in more extracurricular activities. Last August, Whirlpool released these results and since then they have been inundated with more than 900 applications to have washers and dryers installed at their respective schools.
In May 2017 the company announced that they would be partnering with Teach for America, which is a program that places teachers at schools in disadvantaged areas with at-risk youth, to install and operate the equipment.
“This collaboration with Teach For America will not only help us expand on the wonderful success of the Care Counts™ laundry program – but will allow us to learn more about the educational environment and how we can best help students succeed,” said Jennifer Tayebi, brand experience manager for Whirlpool brand. “Whirlpool and Teach For America share very similar visions and values, so this relationship is a natural way to continue to provide more students with access to clean clothes.”
Teach for America and Whirlpool have been working since the spring to install equipment in 60 more schools, mostly across Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and New Orleans. They’re hoping to have them all ready to go by the fall so that students can start off their school year feeling confident and prepared.
Chronic absences plague schools in areas with a disproportionate amount of families living in poverty and this can be for any number of reasons. A lack of motivation, an inability to secure transportation to school, shame for not having time to do homework, or even not having clean clothes can all lead to a child not attending school on any given day. That’s why Whirlpool started the pilot program to see if they could help with the problem, whether their inability to do laundry is because they’re homeless or don’t have the equipment at home.
“Maybe they weren’t able to pay their electricity bill or they’re homeless,” Tayebi told Business Insider. It’s been gratifying to see that “we can help them with something as simple as donating a washer and dryer to give them clean clothes and to help them feel better about themselves.”
According to the U.S. Education Department, more than 6 million kids in the U.S. are “chronically absent,” which can have a huge impact on their education and self-esteem. With the pilot schools showing massive improvement and even a higher willingness to learn and participate, it’s no wonder so many schools nationwide want to give this a shot. During the first year of the program, teachers and administrators allowed students to bring as many clothes as they could fit in a single bag as often as they wanted. The best part is that it doesn’t cost the families anything.
“The direct effects would be that the students are not embarrassed to come to school because they have clean clothes,” Arum, dean of UCI’s School of Education, told Business Insider. “The indirect mechanism would be that the program suggests to them that the larger society cares about their schooling.”
Children may feel more understood and included if their needs are being met at school and by reducing the stigma associated with being homeless or having less money. If schools can curb the frequency with which children miss school early on in their educational career just by washing their clothes, it’s possible that this solution could have even bigger implications. If you would like to donate to the fund to install more equipment in more schools, you can do so here.