CLEARFIELD — By the Utah State Board of Education’s count, there are more than 1,000 students who are homeless in the Davis School District, and more than 50 of those students attend Clearfield High School.

Many of those students develop attendance issues or struggle to focus in class as they are forced to sit next to their peers without having showered, wearing unlaundered clothes. To help at-risk teens address some of those physical needs and chart a path forward, the Davis Education Foundation opened the first of four planned Davis School District teen centers at Clearfield High on Monday.

“I heard about it and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, because personally I know people who do struggle with making ends meet and knowing where their next meal is going to come from,” said Tori Whiteley, a student body officer overseeing service initiatives at the school.

The teen center has two wings which mirror each other. On both sides, there are two rooms students can use. In one, there is a washing machine and dryer, a shower, a toilet and a sink. There is a countertop and mirror where students can use a supplied hair dryer, flat iron or curling iron to get ready, while nearby cupboards are filled with towels and hygiene supplies.

The second room contains a lounging chair with a quilt where students can rest, if needed. It also has a desk with a laptop where students can do homework, and a microwave they can use to heat food.

“It really makes a difference for students who may not have access to facilities like this regularly to have it here at school so that they can be confident in school and work on their academic learning,” said Principal Chris Keime.

Empowered to take care of some of their present needs, the center will also help homeless and otherwise disadvantaged students look to the future by preparing for a career or considering higher education.

Jenica Whitworth, along with Megan Bingham, is the new director of the teen center, but she is also the school’s scholarship adviser. She will use that expertise to help at-risk students work on resumes and college applications, she said.

“They have a lot of responsibility put on them, so we’re able to take some of that responsibility that they hold for the family, and they’re able in turn to focus more on their school work and their future and be a little bit selfish for what their needs are going to be,” Whitworth said, referencing how many struggling students are also caring for younger siblings.

The teen center has already begun helping some students, she added. One contacted the teen center on his own, and Whitworth helped him apply to Weber State University and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

“Now he’s excited and ready for that next step,” she said. “Our next goal moving forward is to be able to reach the students who maybe aren’t there asking for help who have the same questions.”

Students can reach out to and access the teen center on their own, but they can also be connected to those resources by fellow students, faculty or the school’s counseling center, Keime said.

“It’s really founded in the relationships that our students have with their peers and that our staff has with students to connect those who need it with these resources,” he said, adding, “Where there’s a need, we’ll always try to meet it.”

Billed at $208,760, the majority of the teen center was funded by Clearfield City, said Assistant Superintendent and Business Administrator Craig Carter at an Oct. 20 school board meeting. But numerous other community members and students pitched in too.

The school’s student government raised funds for the center, a wood shop class built shelves in a storage closet and the student-run Nest Cafe catered the grand opening. Whiteley said feeder schools also collected donations of laundry detergent and hygiene kits for the teen center.

“I think it’s amazing how the community, we care about our students, we care about who we’re helping,” Whiteley said.

Jodi Lunt, the director of the Davis Education Foundation, said the teen center was completely funded and stocked by members of the community, including public entities, businesses, churches, nonprofit organizations and individuals. Even a group called Quilting Grandmas contributed its talents.

She hopes the foundation can generate the same kind of support in other communities where teen centers are being built — at Northridge High School, Woods Cross High School and Layton High School. If all goes as planned, each of those projects will commence within the next year, Lunt said.

{div class=”subscriber-only”}The Davis Education Foundation is seeking monetary donations, as well as hygiene supplies, laundry detergent and other necessities for the upcoming teen centers. Donations will also go toward sustaining the operation of the Clearfield teen center.{/div}

{div class=”subscriber-only”}Community members can make contributions through https://www.daviseducationfoundation.org or by calling 801-402-4438.

“It takes a village,” Lunt said, “and we are so grateful that our village is Davis County, because I have never been around people that care so much about their children.”{/div}

Contact reporter Emily Anderson at eanderson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at

@emilyreanderson.

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