CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Women attending Prairie State College will have a new resource with the start of the new semester this week.

Cathy Kloss, director of development and special projects at PSC, said that last spring, the college identified a service to assist female students.

"One of the things is that our female student jobseekers really don't always have an appropriate interview outfit when they go out looking for a job," she said.

She said the typical student apparel that may consist of T-shirts, jeans, shorts, flip-flops and gym shoes doesn't give that first impression conducive to employment.

"So to assist these students, we have started a Women's Interview Closet with donated professional clothing," Kloss said.

Students will go through a voucher qualification and meet with Career Development Services staff to discuss resumes, then participate in mock job interviews.

Financial need will be assessed and those who qualify will be given a voucher to obtain an interview outfit at the ALLURE store at 410 Ashland in Chicago Heights.

The ALLURE store, which stands for Academy for Lifelong Learning Upcycle and Resale Exchange, is run by students with SPEED Special Education School District 802, which serves people with various disabilities from birth to age 21.

PSC has an agreement with the ALLURE store that it will store clothes for PSC students who take part in the Women's Interview Closet Program.

"We've collected, I'd say, over 750 garments at this point," Kloss said.

Other items donated that are not women's business apparel will be given to the store to be sold to benefit the SPEED program.

Jessica Chen, transition administrator for SPEED, said the institutions have formed a true partnership.

"They collect more than they need for their program, so then we can also use those interview clothes, maybe for our students that need to go do interviews, or sell some of them in the store," Chen said.

Kloss said Franciscan St. James Hospitals are among the groups that have collected clothing for the cause and that more than 100 items of gently used career apparel were donated by a group from the John H. Blakey Center for Seniors in Glenwood.

Kloss said it is possible male students will be provided with a similar apparel program in the future, but the concentration is now on women. Female students made up at least 60 percent of the school's enrollment.

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.