On Tuesday, May 17, Marco Arabelo strutted down the aisles of the Men’s Wearhouse on State Street, the first of seven boys in Santa Barbara Junior High’s California Outreach Recreation and Education (CORE) class (for at-risk students) to have assembled a complete wardrobe for their upcoming June 5 graduation. With store tailors ready to assist and money no object—cash for the suits comes out of CORE’s budget, which is funded by grants and private donations—each boy picked out a shirt, tie, and slacks.
For some of the boys, graduation was not a foregone conclusion. They were chosen for CORE at the beginning of the year due to misbehavior and poor academic performance. Often, their difficulties in school stem from challenging circumstances at home.
In the boys’ CORE class, teacher Marc Fidel takes students on field trips and exposes them to a world they would never have encountered otherwise. For the most part, though, the boys appreciate simply having a quiet place to study and a little extra motivation. Student Juan Rios said, “It helps that other people are there to support us. My grades boosted up like crazy.” Robert Soto said he raised his GPA from 2.0 to 3.5 this year.
“It always hits me right now,” said an emotional Fidel as he watched his students gather for this photo, some wearing their first tie ever.