AVON PARK, Fla.–Feb. 22, 2016–South Florida State College is teaming up with Benton Wealth Management to ensure the college’s spring term graduates dress for success.

Trudy Benton, president of the Sebring-based financial consultancy, will partner with SFSC to hold an open house on March 4, from noon to 6 p.m., so that residents clearing out their closets for spring can donate clothing to students looking for jobs. Benton will play host to the event in her office at 231 U.S. Highway 27 North, Sebring.

The open house will benefit some of the 200 students SFSC will graduate in May. Many of these graduates will launch their careers with their newly minted degrees and occupational certificates.

“Much to their credit, some of our graduates complete their studies even though they come from financially hard-pressed homes,” said Colleen Rafatti, director of SFSC’s Career Development Center. “One more hurdle often awaits these graduates: affording business- appropriate clothing for job interviews.”

Rafatti noted that in today’s competitive employment market, showing up for an interview with the wrong attire can cost a graduate a chance of landing a job.

“This year, we found an amazing partner, Trudy Benton, who founded Benton Wealth Management,” Rafatti said. “Trudy came up with the idea of inviting the public to her office not only to drop off clothing but take time to enjoy refreshments.”

Ladies can also enter their names for a chance to win a Brighton necklace.

In 2013, Benton, an SFSC alumna, started her own wealth management firm after 14 years as SunTrust Investment Services’ lead financial adviser for Highlands County.

“It seems like yesterday when I was a student at SFSC working on building my career and struggling to put together my own professional wardrobe,” Benton said. “I understand the difficulties of being a new professional with limited resources.”

The idea of matching graduates with the right clothing came to Rafatti in 2011. She had been tapped to take part in Leadership Highlands, a nine-month course that prepares a select number of county residents to assume leadership roles in the community.

Rafatti persuaded her classmates to donate time, clothing, and hardware to set up a “Dress for Success” room on SFSC’s Highlands Campus to fulfill the class’s required service project. Rafatti and her classmates soon stocked the room with racks of clothing, furniture, and fashioned it with fitting space.

Rafatti heads up SFSC’s Career Development Center, a one-stop shop that provides students with a range of employability services. From resume preparation to job leads to interviewing tips, Rafatti and her colleagues aim to ensure SFSC students get off to a good start once they’re ready to work.

Benton and Rafatti ask residents to bring gently used women’s business attire, shoes, purses, and accessories to restock the “Dress for Success” shelves. While the afternoon’s spotlight will be on women, donation of men’s clothing is also welcome. Clothing should be clean, pressed, and on hangers.

For information on the open house, contact Benton or Shari Flowers at Benton Wealth Management’s Sebring office at 863-402-1700. For information on SFSC’s Career Development Center, contact Colleen Rafatti at 863-784-7410 or rafattic@southflorida.edu.