The Amazing 8 Under 18: Phoenix’s story

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Transformation is underway at Proctor High School. In one of the classrooms, the desks have been replaced by racks of cardigans as the space transitions from a place of learning to a source of free clothing for students. The thrift shop, called the “Box Car”, is a work in progress. A lot of that work is being taken on by senior Phoenix Koski.

“No one wants to admit they have a hard time. But being from a kid who has had a hard time growing up and knows what the struggle is like, I want to do anything and everything in my power to make it so, you know, paying it forward, so it goes a long way,” Phoenix said.

Thanks to a large donation from Maurices in the fall of 2021, the Box Car became a collection of boxes. The room will be remodeled in the spring of 2022 in the fashion of a department store.

“We will be raising the ceilings so we can have more rows and we’re painting the walls,” Phoenix said, “It won’t look like a classroom. It’ll be beautiful. I’m very excited to see the final product of it.”

However, the need for free access to clothing isn’t waiting until the grand opening, so neither is Phoenix. She’s spent nights, study halls, and lunch periods unpacking boxes of donated clothes. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed by Sarah Klyve, the Dean of Students and Student Success Coordinator at Proctor High School.

Klyve said, “Phoenix saw the need and saw the benefit of having a space for students to be able to come in and get things that they need and didn’t really want to wait until we got our store up and running, knowing that it was important that students had access right now. And so, she took it upon herself.”

Phoenix’s hard work is now reflected in an organized box car. Every item is sorted, from dress jackets to rompers. Phoenix has also worked to expand the collection, understanding that her classmates have needs beyond Maurices clientele.

“She put out a message to the community and to Proctor and said, ‘Hey, these are some things that we’re really missing in this store. Who has them lying around? Who’s willing to donate?’ And the response was incredible. People just saying, like, ‘Yeah, I have that stuff, I’ll bring it in,’” Klyve said.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is getting students to take advantage of the resource. It’s also yet another challenge that Phoenix has risen to.

Klyve said, “That’s why I’ve been so proud of Phoenix. Because she’s taken it upon herself to mentor younger students, to help them in tough situations, to help them be better, and to know that they always can turn to her, even if they have struggles that they don’t want to talk to a teacher with.”

Being someone to turn to is Phoenix’s goal. She said, “I don’t want them to ever have to feel like how I felt when stuff like that was going on in my life. I want them to know that they still have a person that’s there for them, no matter what.”

Phoenix’s passion for helping others also informs her decisions outside of school. She works as a certified nursing assistant at Viewcrest Health Center. Upon graduation, phoenix hopes to pursue a nursing degree, and ultimately, she wants to start her own group home one day.