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Open Letter to OPS Board of Education: Keep Fashion in the Curriculum

Hey everyone!  It looks like an assistant superintendent at Omaha Public Schools is proposing the elimination of all clothing and fashion classes over the next two years. The Board of Education votes on the proposal Monday, May 18.  If you are as passionate as we are about keeping creativity in schools, please consider writing to the OPS board TODAY. The decision will impact thousands of kids from all socio-economic backgrounds who have an interest in fashion.  At OFW, we believe the life skills, job experience and leadership training kids receive through fashion education will benefit them no matter what career path they choose. Check out this letter written by OFW Producer Brook Hudson for some inspiration as you write your own.  Click here for a link to the list of OPS Board of Education members. Dear OPS Board of Education Members:

I am the producer of Omaha Fashion Week and it has come to my attention that you will be voting on a curriculum change that would eliminate fashion classes in Omaha Public Schools.  I've been involved in our local fashion scene for eight years and want to share with you some information about what's happening in Omaha related to fashion and how your very own students are involved and benefiting:

-Omaha hosts the nation's fifth largest fashion event in the US - Omaha Fashion Week.  OFW is bigger than events taking place in Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Chicago. -Over 1,000 young people participate in biannual fashion events (August and March) as designers, models, stylists, hair dressers, makeup artists, visual artists, stage managers, personal assistants, reporters, photographers and videographers.  They gain leadership training and real-world job experience through these activities. -9,000 attendees support this activity each year as Omaha Fashion Week ticketholders -Omaha has become known nationally as the fashion scene with the highest concentration of high school designers.  We regularly see students who go on to top fashion schools around the world, taking with them extensive portfolios and leadership experience through our programs. -Omaha Fashion Camp takes place each summer and exposes 60 young people, ages 6-17, to the many career paths available in the fashion industry. -The Fashion Institute Midwest, a non-profit organization, is actively involved in supporting young people with an interest in fashion by providing materials grants, educational opportunities and mentoring. -The Kent Bellows Mentoring Program at the Joslyn Museum has been running a fashion program for several years now to foster the creativity of budding fashion designers. -4-H has a long history of teaching craftsmanship and proper construction to students across the state of Nebraska. -SAC Federal Credit Union has recently launched a program to provide business advice and micro-loans to small fashion startups.

I understand that there is an emphasis in schools to prepare students for "high income, high demand" jobs.  This means more focus on subjects like math and science.  Shockingly enough, there is quite a bit of math, science and even engineering involved in fashion. Learning how to create a garment challenges a young person's spatial awareness, understanding of material properties/fiber content and even fundamental skills such as using a ruler.  For many of these students, fashion is an entry point for gaining an understanding of these concepts. Our experience with Fashion Camp opened our eyes to just how powerful the topic of fashion can be in bringing these abstract and technical concepts to life for young people.

Fashion classes also prepare students for so much more than a future in fashion design.  Let's be honest...becoming a big name designer is about as difficult as becoming a professional athlete and the rise to the top often starts with many unpaid internships and low-paying jobs.  However, there are many career paths in the fashion industry that don't involve design and sewing know-how, and are much more lucrative and accessible locally than you might realize.  Fashion is a multi-disciplinary industry that incorporates business, marketing, journalism, photography, videography and graphic design, in addition to vocational fields such as hair dressing and makeup artistry.  There are also research-based fields that overlap with fashion, such as consumer psychology and human geography. The intersection of tech and fashion is also an interesting area yielding high paying jobs for young people. Fashion entrepreneurship and retail is yet another path. With the ubiquity of the internet, it is now possible for a young person to start a business and gain access to a world-wide audience.  There are already several examples of this happening right here in Omaha.  The best part?  These talented young people don't have to leave our city to have a career in the industry that interests them...and through our vibrant fashion ecosystem, they now have the support they need to explore their interests and showcase their work on a world-class runway.

Given all of this, you might be asking why it is necessary to keep fashion in the curriculum.  OPS fashion programs are a pipeline for new talent entering the Omaha fashion ecosystem.  These classes are often the starting point and a place where students of all socio-economic backgrounds can build confidence and skills to the point where extracurricular fashion activities become a goal. Without that first step in the classroom, many students will never know what is available to them in their own backyard.  Thus, they will miss out on the valuable skills and life lessons that can be learned along the way to a career, whether in fashion or another industry.  What they learn through these experiences is applicable in almost any field.

I believe America's great competitive advantage on the world stage is the creativity of its people. Outsourcing of jobs that can be automated will continue to be a threat to this generation.  We owe it to ALL of our kids to provide opportunities to flex their creative muscles in school. Fashion programming is a great way to do that.  On behalf of the entire Omaha fashion community, I ask that you vote to keep fashion classes in the OPS curriculum.

Sincerely, Brook Hudson, MBA Producer, Omaha Fashion Week