Before the start of school last fall, incoming freshmen at Faribault High School were welcomed with the usual orientation about high school life, from academics and extracurriculars to how to find their classrooms and school counselors should they need them.
But this student orientation included an additional stop: The Nest.
A year in the making, the Nest is a student store that offers clothing, toiletry items and other essentials to students at no cost. Its creation was inspired by another high school with a similar program and is a response to a growing need among teenagers for basic items of food and hygiene.
The Nest opened the week before the start of the school year. The room where it is housed, even though located near the cafeteria for the school's 1,230 students, is private and not staffed.
"The donations keep coming in. We have so much stuff and not enough space," said Faribault High School teacher Kaylee Wiens, adviser for the school's student-run community service club the Falcon Project, which oversees the Nest.
"But that's a good problem to have," Wiens said. "We have a meeting (coming up) to take over more space."
The club offers many service projects that benefit the school and community, including building a community mental health program with supportive signs placed around the school. The students knitted surgical hats for children. Last month, they raised money for gift cards for kids in need, to use over the holidays.
But when a school administrator heard about a student store at Shakopee High School, he brought the idea to Faribault.
"Everything in the store was free for students and he wanted to do something like that here," said Wiens, who teaches family and consumer sciences.
Falcon Project members started planning. In the spring of 2019, they made a presentation to school administrators. The club started designing the furniture and painting the room. The room was furnished by the end of the school year.
The club also sought donations - making a presentation to the school's athletic booster club.
"The booster club donated $5,000," said Wiens, who is in her sixth year at the high school and won the New Achiever Award by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences last year. "Then we got another $5,000 donation."
Aside from a few purchased school supplies, everything in the store has been donated.
Carly Doyle, a senior who helps run the Nest, said she initially worried "that students would be embarrassed to use the store."
Added Amarissa Bednar, a junior: "I think in the beginning there might have been some embarrassment. But it has really been accepted. We didn't know there was such a big need. The donations are flying out the window."
The two students said it has been rewarding to see planning for the Nest come to fruition and be so positively received. Wiens agreed.
"It's taken off quicker than I expected," said Wiens. "Now, it's just working out some of the kinks. We're putting out requests for more donations of certain items. We need a little more space on the racks, so we can put out more items and give students a choice."