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Students get lesson along with winter coat

Lakewood School students Jonathan GarciMichael Nichols enjoy hot chocolate 'store' teacher Josh Hortset up for students his classroom. Submitted photo.

Lakewood School students Jonathan Garcia and Michael Nichols enjoy hot chocolate at the "store" teacher Josh Horton set up for students in his classroom. Submitted photo.

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To learn more about SNOW or to donate outerwear, visit or contact Josh and Erin Horton at

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:14AM

CARPENTERSVILLE — Josh Horton has been teaching at Lakewood School for eight years, and, come each winter, he never could be sure if students weren’t wearing coats because they didn’t want to or because they didn’t have them.

So last year his wife, Erin, suggested he add a new lesson to the accelerated literature and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college preparatory classes he teaches: “It’s OK to ask for help if you need it.”

That lesson snowballed into a winter outerwear drive — called SNOW — that warmed nearly 30 students with coats, hats, gloves, hot chocolate and the knowledge their teachers care about them this winter at the school.

“In the past, we’d have old hand-me-down coats, and kids almost seemed embarrassed they would need a coat,” Horton said. “Now they’re very much more positive. They next couple days, they were chattering about it: ‘Oh, it was so fun to stay after school.’ ‘The room looked so cool.’ ”

The sixth-grade teacher started SNOW, or Students Need Outer Wear, with a lesson in his classes about the difference between “need” and “want,” he said. With that came assurances and a change in mindset for many students, he said: “It’s OK to be honest, and it’s OK to be truthful about some of that stuff.”

Then he had students write on index cards: “Coat,” “hat” and “gloves,” and indicate whether they needed any of them, “yes” or “no.”

And then he and his wife got to work, setting up a Facebook page for the program and spreading the word. They collected 30 coats, 20 hats and 28 pairs of gloves, according to the school.

Some came from family and friends. Some came from other educators at Lakewood. Some came from neighbors and friends of friends who just had heard about SNOW and wanted to help, he said.

Others donated hot chocolate and cookies, and on Dec. 19, after passing out gift certificates to students who had indicated they needed certain items, Horton transformed his classroom into a holiday store after classes had been dismissed. That meant holiday decorations and treats and racks of outerwear for students to choose from.

Horton called students’ reaction “really positive.”

Photos on SNOW’s Facebook page show smiling students in puffy down jackets and warm knit hats with ear flaps. Many stayed afterward to get homework help or just to hang out, the teacher said.

Horton said he and his wife hope in the future the program will go schoolwide so all students who need that outerwear can “have that positive experience,” and SNOW can take over Lakewood’s gym or cafeteria. And, he said, he hopes his students learned more than just need versus want from class and from the program.

“A lot of people doing a little bit can help a lot of people out,” he said.

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