GUIZERIX: On tax-free weekend, do your part to fight chronic absenteeism

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Michele Connelly and Dr. Susie Calbert in their roles with the United Way of West Central Mississippi and its Middle School Coalition.

What I learned from them both surprised me and gave me hope. It’s no secret that chronic absenteeism plagues students in the community at an above-average rate; however, it wasn’t until speaking with Calbert and Connelly that I realized lack of access to school uniforms could be a contributing factor.

Growing up in one of Florida’s poorest school districts, with 40 percent of the student body living at or below the poverty line, I’ve seen firsthand the effects chronic absenteeism can have on a student. Although we didn’t have to wear uniforms to school, I know there were days when my classmates didn’t come to school because it was too cold and they didn’t have a jacket, or they were afraid of being punished for their lack of tennis shoes at recess.

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Admittedly, access to school uniforms wasn’t my first thought when it comes to eliminating obstacles to school attendance. But thankfully, there are people much smarter than me who are working to make a difference.

By providing school uniforms to those in need and either supplementing or establishing community uniform closets at our local public and private schools, students will be better equipped to receive the superior education our community has to offer.

This brings me to my next point. Mississippi’s Sales Tax Holiday, colloquially known as “Tax-Free Weekend,” begins Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians take advantage of this small break in cost to purchase school uniforms for their children.

Perhaps, if you’re able, you could toss an extra pair of khaki pants or a polo shirt or two in your shopping cart for a child who needs school clothes. Or, if your child has outgrown a uniform item, consider donating it to the United Way’s uniform drive as well.

In the process of uplifting children in the Vicksburg and Warren County area, this is a small act of kindness that could be the catalyst for a child’s successful school year.