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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Finishing School Students Help Girls in Need

Aug 22, 2016 02:52PM ● By Kelly Cannon

Anabelle Buchanan and her sister Clara hold up the dresses students have made for their service project. —Kelly Cannon

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]
The students at Finishing School are making a difference with the skills they’ve learned in class. The school, which teaches primarily cooking and sewing, is making dresses for girls in need around the world through Dress a Girl Around the World, a program of Hope 4 Women International.
The charity provides dress patterns volunteers can make and then send to the organization. The charity then sends the dresses to girls in need around the world including Burma, Colombia, Ethiopia and Pakistan, as well as dozens of others.  
“It’s a really neat project where students can come here and they can make a skirt and a dress for girls in different countries that need them,” 15-year-old Annabella Buchanan, one of the teachers at Finishing School, said. “They can make a big pocket on them because they love pockets. And then we go and send them to the countries that need them.”
Annabelle said creating the dresses makes her feel really good because she knows the dresses will make another girl feel happy.
The pattern is fairly easy with a simple skirt with a front pocket sewn onto a T-shirt. A label provided by Dress a Girl Around the World is then sewn onto the back at the neck.
Sue Hess Fenton, the owner of Finishing School, heard about the charity project and after checking it out, felt it was the perfect project for her students.
“I think it’s a wonderful project. I can’t imagine these girls over there with no dresses. It pulls at my heart strings,” Fenton said. “I knew the girls would feel the same way and they do. It’s really cute to see them focus on someone other than themselves. They choose a project for themselves or a family member. But to do things for someone in another part of the world gives a good connection.”
Fenton said because the pattern is so easy to construct, the sewer doesn’t have to be an advance sewer to complete it. She said she hopes the project helps teach the students the importance of service.
“I have students who come that far so I know there’s already a following so I’d love to find someone who is interested in buying a franchise,” Fenton said.
The Finishing School, whose main location is in Holladay, has been around for 40 years. It started with Fenton teaching her children and their friends how to cook and sew.
“It was just a cottage industry out of my home and we’ve been in three different locations,” Fenton said. “And now we’re here in Holladay and we love it here in this old 100-year-old house.”
The main purpose of Finishing School is primarily to teach young children and teens how to cook and sew. However, there is a focus on nutrition and manners.
“My goal is to teach kids these skills so they can create a home. It’s not just a pit-stop. It’s a home. It’s where people come and there’s someone in the kitchen making dinner or fixing food for a party,” Fenton said. “It’s a place where they can be comfortable living and they can have those skills. I think it really creates a quality life. I think it adds to the quality of people’s lives.”
There are currently 300 students at three different locations: Holladay, Highland and Arlington, Virginia. A new Draper location is set to open on Sept. 12 at the old Draper Park Elementary School, located on the corner of 900 East and Pioneer Road.
According to Fenton, the building was bought by an extreme sports company who is remodeling the space and renting out to local companies. Fenton believes Finishing School is the first business to lease at the location.
“It will be right in the front, the northeast corner. We have nice big windows and easy access from the parking lot. It’s a great open space,” Fenton said. “We’ll be doing the cooking and the sewing and there will be lots of fun new classes.”
For more information about Finishing School, visit