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Organization Helps Young Men Dress For Success

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WAMC
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Can a suit really make a difference in a young man’s life?  A newly launched organization to mentor young men in Springfield, Massachusetts believes attire and attitude go hand-in-hand.

The small storefront on Worthington Street in Springfield’s bar and restaurant district looks like any men’s clothing store.  There are racks of suit coats and trousers along with tables where starched dress shirts and neatly folded silk ties are displayed.  But there is more here than just style.

  The Suit Up Springfield store is the result of a social media campaign that started just six months ago to provide professional attire to young men in Springfield and promote an attitude of success at school and work. 

  Suit Up Springfield was founded by Justin Roberts, a development officer at American International College.

" I developed the concept off my personal experiences with seeing individuals help other young men with acquiring attire, how to tie a tie, prepare for interviews and be a good employee," he explained.

Roberts said his experiences taught him the truth in the old adage: perception is reality.

The organization, which is governed by community leaders who call themselves a “Board of Mentors,” is now registered as a not-for-profit 501-c3. 

" Our tag line is ' a suit is a starting place.'  So, through local organizations and schools we work with  programs that already exist to find out what are the missing pieces."

17-year-old Jonathan Neris credits Suit Up Springfield for turning his life around.  Raised only by his mother in absolute poverty Neris wore plastic bags for diapers and when he became older got involved with gangs.

" I made a lot of mistakes. But, I have to thank Suit Up Springfield a lot for the opportunities they have given me.  I did not know how to dress," he said.

Neris is now a senior at the High School of Commerce and is a commander in a JROTC program at the school.

Suit Up Springfield has received support and encouragement from Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe and Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said the organization is a welcome addition to downtown Springfield.

" I think it is fantastic," he said.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren visited the Suit Up Springfield storefront last week where she participated in a roundtable discussion with local social service providers.

Suit Up Springfield accepts donations of new or gently used men’s suits, shirts, shoes and accessories.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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