The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is working with Opelousas High School to collect suits for parents of Opelousas students in order to help them find employment.

“A Suit For You” consists of students donating their professional wear to the high school, creating an entire ensemble to be purchased for $5.

Maniko Barthelemy, an instructor in the broadcasting department, is leading the event.

“A Suit for You is a program that we have in our department where students are donating gently used men and women’s professional attire,” Barthelemy said. “Everything is going to be donated to Opelousas High School, and the school is going to hold a career workshop for parents who are unemployed that will be held at the end of the year.”

Barthelemy said she hopes the event will help people in Lafayette be better prepared for interviews.

“The reason why we’re doing it is because we have at least 9,000 people in our area who do not have jobs, and one of the biggest hurdles for many people is not necessarily getting the interview, but getting the interview and not being prepared to show up for it.”

The university also recognizes the importance of professional attire.

According to the Office of Career Services: “A recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that 88% of employers surveyed indicated they expect job candidates to be dressed in business casual or better for an interview. A large part of the first impression you will make on potential employers comes from your ability to dress appropriately.”

Barthelemy also shared the importance of an event to college students:

“That’s where we want to bring our students in to make that a less stressful situation for them. There are so many opinions about millennials not caring about anyone other than themselves. This is yet another project we can show that our students at UL Lafayette do care.”

Barthelemy commented on the effect this event will have on Opelousas High.

“It is important because — honestly, whether it’s your first job, second job, third — times are hard when it comes to getting the things to wear to work,” she said. “So, with our program, the parents are paying $5 to have access to everything donated. Then the money is going back into the school to help support the school’s band, which is actually being rebooted this year. So, they need a lot of funds.”

Markenia Jackson, the Assistant Principal of Opelousas High School, commented on A Suit for You.

“When Ms. Barthelemy reached out to us, knowing that we are a high needs school — we have a lot of students here whose parents are unemployed and seeking work,” Jackson said. “There aren’t very many opportunities here in the Opelousas community, so when she presented this idea to us as a way for our parents to get some readiness as it pertains to interview processes, we were all in.”

Ms. Jackson, who helped coordinate the event at the school, shared her beliefs on the importance of owning professional wear.

“Just being able to have that nice dress outfit, it helps you play the part,” Jackson said. “There’s something about having a nice suit or a nice dress that increases your confidence instantly, but it also allows you to mix and mingle in different circles.”

Barthelemy echoed this sentiment, mentioning her thoughts on professional wear:

“I think the importance of owning a suit is the way you feel about yourself when you put it on. You have a different walk. You have a different level of confidence when you’re wearing that versus when we’re super relaxed and we don’t want to be bothered, and that kind of thing,” Barthelemy said.

“When you have it, you feel good about yourself, and you are more positive going into a job interview versus going there with ‘Well, this is what I had to wear.’”

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