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MVLA Speech and Debate Community Closet aims to reduce inequities

Courtesy of Midpeninsula Post, Ryan Janes.

First launched at the end of 2023, the MVLA Speech and Debate Community Closet exists to provide Mountain View and Los Altos teens with professional clothing for all occasions.

LAHS senior Audrey Tsai, a member of the MVLA S&D Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee – a committee that identifies inequities in the community and tries to address them – said the idea originally came from former MVLA Speech and Debate president Anagha Rajesh at the end of the last school year. Tsai and her co-chair of the current DEI committee, MVHS junior Taylor Luna, got the project running late last year and it has been open ever since.

The Community Closet was originally meant to make speech and debate more accessible by providing professional clothing required for speech and debate tournaments, Tsai said. 

“We noticed that professional clothing is really expensive,” Luna said. “And teenagers had a lack of access to it so we started the community closet to fix this inequity.”

To function, the Community Closet needed a physical space, Luna said. After reaching out to The View Teen Center in Mountain View, the center offered them a room to store their racks of clothes.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the community center so we’re grateful for them,” Luna said.

Once the MVLA S&D team partnered with The View Teen Center, the project was able to expand to serve all teens in need of professional clothing, Tsai said.

“The community closet is open to any teenager in the area,” Tsai said. “Whether it’s for an interview or something else.”

Courtesy of Midpeninsula Post, Ryan Janes.

Tsai and Luna are currently advertising the Community Closet through the MVLA S&D team’s Instagram account and The View Teen Center’s Instagram account, Luna said.

They have also further expanded their reach by contacting other clubs at MVHS that would require professional clothing, such as Mock Trial.

“We’ve also started emailing outside organizations like the YMCA, and youth in government programs that would need professional clothing,” Luna said.

Although Tsai is graduating from the MVLA S&D team this year, she said she hopes the Community Closet will continue on.

“Taylor is a junior, so she’ll be on [the DEI committee] next year and I’m very confident in her abilities,” Tsai said. “It’s been amazing working with her and she’s very passionate about this too.”

Luna and Tsai said the Community Closet will stay open and be managed by the new MVLA S&D DEI committee chairs in future years.

“[The Community Closet] is going to be a permanent part of the teen center now,” Luna said. “For ongoing years, The View Teen Center will have that room open and the community closet there.”

Luna said she is especially thankful to the many clothing donations they have received. 

“We got a lot of emails from community members saying ‘Hey, I have seven suits, where can I drop these off?’” Luna said.

Besides clothing, the community has also helped out with money and funding for the project, Luna said.

“We’re grateful to the [MVHS] PTSA in particular,” Luna said. “They gave us a $1,000 grant for the community closet.”

Both Tsai and Luna want to emphasize that the Community Closet is really for any teen with a need for professional clothing.

“I don’t want people to think [the Community Closet] is primarily for members of the [Speech and Debate] team,” Tsai said. “We want anyone who has a need for professional clothing to go.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Huang, Staff Writer
Matthew is a sophomore and serves as a staff writer for the Oracle. Outside of school, he enjoys playing with his dog, practicing piano, and running cross country.
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