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The Hancock College Career Center on Monday unfolded their newest initiative to address the non-academic needs of their student body, while helping some land jobs.

Dozens of new and gently used shirts, jackets, blouses, slacks and skirts, shoes, and accessories — cornerstones of a professional business wardrobe — now fill a rack in the college's Student Center. Dubbed the "Career Closet," administrators hope the new program will ease the stress of saving up for professional attire by providing it to students for free.

"A student can go down to the closet if they have a job interview or some type of career event ... and select an outfit so they can wear it and feel good," explained Tom Lamica, director of the college's Career development programs. "They can feel like they're dressed for success."

Organized in a collaboration between the Career Center and Student Services departments, Stephanie Robb, the college's Student Activities coordinator, said the Career Closet is one of several projects to help students financially. The college also runs a small, on-campus food pantry and regularly partners with the Santa Barbara County Food Bank to provide perishable and non-perishable goods and produce.

"Many of our students, and this is not unique to Hancock, struggle financially," Lamica said. "Often times [they] don't have that extra money to do what we have to offer."

Lamica said between 4,000 and 5,000 students or community members take advantage of the Career Center each semester. In addition to the Career Closet, the center offers assistance writing resumes and cover letters, searching for jobs and preparing for interviews. 

"The goal is we help them in the Career Center, get them suited up, get them prepared [...] then they go and apply and actually interview with a company," he said. "This is full-service."

Last April, during on-campus job interviews with local businesses, four students who received assistance landed jobs in the community. Those who received clothes from the Career Closet told Lamica that they "felt more confident ... supported and valued by Hancock College."

While Lamica searches for a permanent home for the Career Closet, he's confident the program will continue to grow with support from college faculty and staff, as well as community members. Eric Smith, the college's vice president for finance, donated eight suits to the career closet. Lynn Mayer, who works as a program specialist with the career center, purchased a good number of new earrings and other women's accessories. 

"The goal eventually is to have a full assortment of ties [or] belts — all sorts of different accessories," Lamica said.

Individuals interested in donating to the Career Closet can drop off new or gently used clothes to the college's Student Center or Career Center. Anyone with questions can contact the career center at 805-922-6966, ext. 3374.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga

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Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.