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Students embrace style after district ditches uniforms

Grand Rapids — City High School senior E’Nyiah Cummings enjoys expressing herself through fashion, like on a recent Monday when she wore leggings and a mini-dress accessorized with jewelry, and a fancy nail design.

She’s now able to show her unique style at school, thanks to student input that led the district to eliminate uniforms district-wide. 

“I’m definitely a little fashionista,” said E’Nyiah. “I get it from my mom. I’ve been dressing up since I was a baby.”

As a junior representative on the Superintendent’s Scholar Advisory Council last school year, E’Nyiah and her peers discussed their desire to stop wearing uniforms. Reasons: the collared polo-style shirts and khaki pants weren’t flattering for all. The uniforms were cost prohibitive. Students wanted to show their individual style.

“Back when I was in elementary school I did not like wearing uniforms because they were uncomfortable, but also because they were plain and I personally like to dress up; that’s just how I am,” she said.

The committee surveyed students, families and staff to gather input on uniforms, and the overwhelming majority of students indicated they wanted them eliminated. Families and teachers were split. The district agreed to drop the requirement first implemented in 2013-2014, and adopted a new dress code policy listed on page 26 of the 2022-23 GRPS student handbook

‘I feel that in order for (adults) to make decisions about us, you should have our feedback and our voice.’

– Sammy Leggett, Grand Rapids Montessori senor
Grand Rapids Montessori senior Sammy Leggett still wears his uniform sometimes, but likes to have other options

Grand Rapids Montessori senior Sammy Leggett, who also served on the committee last year, agreed eliminating uniforms is best for all.

“Uniform prices were rising and they are hard to find these days,” he said. “Especially for families that are very low income and have multiple students, it’s a constraint for them to have to find them each year… Kids are growing.”

Sammy, who is pursuing politics and business as a career, decided to keep wearing his uniform – at least sometimes. He recently wore a U.S. Army Junior ROTC jacket over his polo. 

“This year my style is more business-like,” he said. ‘I figure this is my senior year. I’m trying to do more with the district. I want to look professional.”

He likes that everyone now has options – and that students helped make that happen.

“I feel that in order for (adults) to make decisions about us, you should have our feedback and our voice,” Sammy said. “We were able to provide input on how we feel from a student standpoint.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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