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N.J. School's Laundry Program Teaching Bullied Kids To Wash And Learn

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Donations continue to flood into a school in New Jersey and it's giving bullied students there a "clean" start.

CBS2's Lisa Rozner first spoke with the principal of Newark's West Side High School last month about his fundraising efforts to help set up a laundry room for underprivileged students.

Principal Akbar Cook said 85 percent of his students were considered chronically absent because they were missing three to five days of school each month. Cook discovered some were not showing up because they were bullied for not having clean clothes.

The principal spent the last two years lobbying for help, eventually securing a $20,000 grant from PSE&G and getting labor from the Newark Public Schools to turn the football team's locker room into a free, on-campus laundromat with commercial-grade machines.

Laundry washers at West Side High School (Credit: CBS2)

Thanks to more and more donations, West Side High School now has three different storage closets stuffed floor to ceiling with donations of laundry detergent and other supplies.

"I'm 6' 7" and this goes back 20 feet or so," Cook told CBS2's Meg Baker while viewing all of his student's new laundry supplies.

The school has started an after school program from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. so students can wash and learn.

"Confidence is a big thing with everyone. To feel that you smell good, look good, I think that goes a long way," Cook said. "You can get up and go to the teacher's board in front and know no one is going to make fun of stains on your pants… I think this is definitely going to lead to a new generation of empathy."

Cook's students are helping to write thank you notes to each person who donated to the new laundry program.

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