Education

He wanted kids to feel better about going to school. So he helped them dress with pride

ACE student raises funds for new uniforms

Ben Trofemuk, a ninth-grader at Academy for Classical Education in Macon, created a fundraising project to buy new uniforms for third-grade students at L.H. Williams Elementary.
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Ben Trofemuk, a ninth-grader at Academy for Classical Education in Macon, created a fundraising project to buy new uniforms for third-grade students at L.H. Williams Elementary.

A fundraising project by an upperclassman inspired an Academy for Classical Education ninth-grader to make a difference in his own way.

Fourteen-year-old Ben Trofemuk collected enough money to buy new uniforms for third-grade students at another school.

Accompanied by state Superintendent Richard Woods, Trofemuk presented the clothes to about 35 students at L.H. Williams Elementary School Tuesday. He also read a book, titled “The Spiffiest Giant in Town,” to the two third-grade classes.

Trofemuk, of Macon, has been a part of the superintendent’s Student Advisory Council for three years. Chase Gowan, a Veterans High School 12th-grader on the council, challenged him to do something to help the community, Trofemuk said.

Gowan had raised funds for three sets of washers and dryers for local schools, and Trofemuk decided in August he would do a smaller-scale project that focused on uniforms. He chose L.H. Williams Elementary because his mother, Nancy Kistler, knew third-grade teacher Robert “BJ” Shepherd.

At first, Trofemuk was going to just buy pants and shirts, but Michelle Gowan, mother of Chase Gowan and ACE teacher support and curriculum staff, encouraged him to go a step further, Kistler said.

“It’s not just about the uniform. Underwear and socks are just as important as a pair of pants,” Kistler said. “Ben’s grandmother used to say, ‘Bad underwear makes for a bad day.’ 

Schools may have all the resources and supplies they need, but students could still be at a disadvantage when it comes to proper attire. Clothes that are ill-fitting or in disrepair can distract children from their studies, Trofemuk said. Students want to go to school when they are proud of what they are wearing. Plus, parents won’t have to wash clothes as often with another uniform on hand, Kistler said.

“You want to show off your new clothes in school,” Trofemuk said. “I think it will really improve what the school is doing,”

Trofemuk called his project “A Change of Clothes to Change Education” and created a fundraising campaign on the website You Caring and a Facebook page. His family, teachers, faculty and friends spread the word about his project, and Trofemuk spoke to Martha Bowman United Methodist and Christ Chapel churches and the Beta Club advisers at his school.

Using the $2,000 raised so far, he purchased uniforms and other necessities from Wal-Mart, Target, Old Navy and online. Trofeumuk said he was surprised at the high cost for a full uniform: $53.

L.H. Williams students will receive a blue, white or red shirt; a pair of khaki or navy pants; a belt; and packs of underwear and socks in their size. Office Depot in Macon donated construction paper, USB chargers and pen/stylists, along with reusable grocery bags to put all the goods in.

“Every parent is always proud of their kid, but when they do something selflessly for other children, it just makes you incredibly proud of them, especially when they’re 14,” Kistler said.

Michelle Gowan was impressed that a student as young as Trofemuk took on such a big challenge. His project has been noticed by other ACE students, she said.

“Once they see somebody take some initiative and run with it, then it sort of ignites a passion on them as well,” she said. “I’m hoping that kids in this building will follow Ben’s lead.”

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

Want to help?

To donate to “A Change of Clothes to Change Education,” visit http://bit.ly/2fUYShk. Funds will go to the third-grade classes and extra uniforms.

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