Feeling Special for a Day

Feeling Special for a Day

Accotink Academy students show off more than custom-made clothing at Fashion Show and Shoot.

The whole Fashion Club team poses to celebrate a successful Fashion Show and Shoot.

The whole Fashion Club team poses to celebrate a successful Fashion Show and Shoot. Photo by Elizabeth Casey/The Connection


Fashion Club member China poses for the camera.

The Accotink Academy Fashion Club, led by the secondary school teachers Nina Lojanica (“Mrs. L”) and Fallon Keplinger, hosted their annual Fashion Show and first professional fashion shoot on Thursday, June 6, on site at Accotink Academy in order to celebrate the handmade clothing the members of the club produced and styled.

Tucked across the street from West Springfield High School, Accotink Academy consists of the Therapeutic and Learning Schools, two separate schools specializing in educating students with learning and emotional disabilities. A large population of the school is from the D.C. public school system and is bused to Accotink Academy daily for the individualized learning environment that has an extensive vocational training and education program that assists students in moving into the workforce or higher education after graduation.


Fashion Club President Jasmine strikes a pose as Jon David Salon employee Katy does some last minute hair touch-ups.

“All I wanted was for my girls to feel special for one day…like they mattered.”

Fallon Keplinger

THE STUDENTS involved in Thursday’s Fashion Show and Professional Shoot are a part of the Fashion Club, an elective that is an extension of the clothing and textiles vocational program at Accotink. Chasni Gerald, a health educator at Accotink, helps with the club and describes it as “something for the girls,” where they can meet every day during school hours in order to learn to sketch, design, sew, crochet and model their own personal work. But what is most inspirational about this club and program are the real-life skills and lessons that these young women develop, and the future aspirations the students set for themselves based on their experiences at Accotink.


Fashion Club member Markia strikes a pose while she looks on to the teacher, Fallon Keplinger, who holds a sign reminding students of the poses they had practiced.

Ms. Keplinger and Mrs. L strive to instill a higher level of self-esteem in their students who have not necessarily had the easiest experiences in schools, by teaching them to find confidence through experimenting with their own personal style and with well-fitting clothes. One student, Emani, said the class and club led her to break out of her shell by creating her own personal style. She described her relationship with Mrs. L sentimentally, saying, “if I hadn’t met her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”


Fashion Club member Joyce strikes a pose during the “black and white” photo shoot.

These educators hold their young ladies to high expectations through finding a positive group dynamic within the club and instilling the idea that “appearance and first impression are the most important things,” according to Ms. L.


Student-made bags hang in the hallway of Accotink Academy. Money made from the bag sales goes directly to helping with students’ activities at Accotink, including Fashion Club expenses.

These young fashion designers were not only learning how to draw and make clothing, but according to Keplinger, they also spent time learning day-to-day life skills such as how to walk with good posture and behave politely in an interview. The students also practiced etiquette by sending thank-you cards to the many community donors that helped with the show.

The work of Mrs. L and Ms. Keplinger and the students of Accotink came to life on Thursday when members participated in four themed shoots including “personal style,” “dress for success,” “black and white,” and to finish it off, an ode to their generation, “teenager.” One student, China, defined fashion as an “art” and a classmate, Joyce, was proud of her polka dotted “Minnie Mouse” skirt and an upcoming project to redesign a prom dress to her liking.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE FASHION CLUB, Jasmine, will be moving on to higher education next year, and although her dreams do not take her down a path of fashion designing, she claimed the lessons she has learned at Accotink as a leader doing something she loves as a hobby, will follow her throughout life. Keplinger summed up the show perfectly when she said “all I wanted was for my girls to feel special for one day … like they mattered.” The Fashion Club’s show did just that; it gave a group of girls that have overcome many obstacles a chance to show off their skills, confidence and newly formed self-esteem, which they will be able to grace the world with upon graduation.