Teens for Jeans: Jackson students encourage classmates and community to support clothing drive

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Students at Jackson Middle School and student services specialists Donna Bullard, left, and Laura Baugh with some of the jeans collected by students as part of a Teens for Jeans drive last week. (ADAM VOGLER)

By Samantha Rinehart ~ Southeast Missourian

Jackson schools are raising awareness about the prevalence of homelessness in their annual "Jeans for Teens" drive.

From Jan. 16 to Feb. 6, students can bring in their gently used jeans as donations to homeless shelters across the country. Partners with retailer Aéropostale, which runs a nationwide "Teens for Jeans" campaign every year, students can receive discounts on their next purchase for meeting donation goals.

The student group THRIVE -- Teach, Hope, Reach, Involve, Value, Encourage -- a not-for-profit organization within Jackson middle, junior and high schools that sponsors projects to benefit the schools and the community, also helps organize the drive every year.

Dr. Beth Emmendorfer, associate superintendent of the Jackson School District, said THRIVE focuses on the "40 developmental assets" that help students learn responsible and healthy habits.

Some of the jeans collected by Jackson students as part of a Teens for Jeans drive Wednesday, Jan. 23.

With assets that include caring, responsibility and service to others, Emmendorfer said hosting the annual drive helps students put these ideas into actions.

"Students in THRIVE work really hard to develop these assets and support each other," said Emmendorfer. "And with this drive, they're not only helping each other reach donation goals, they're learning compassion as well."

Kayla Larry is a student at Jackson Middle School and a member of THRIVE. She said they try to make the drive "fun" for students. Because students want to participate, Larry believes the drive is more successful.

"Classes have their own competitions to see who can donate more jeans," said Larry. "They set goals and whoever gets the highest wins a party when the drive's over."

While Larry said it is important to make the drive fun for students, she has not lost sight of the true goal. Giving to those in need is a great cause that Larry said she "feels good about" and personally enjoys.

"You never know, these jeans could be going to kids in surrounding areas," said Larry. "It's not just kids who live far away that need them."

Emmendorfer agrees that giving back and raising awareness should remain top priorities for "Teens for Jeans." She says that sometimes it is easy, especially in a small community like Jackson, to forget about large societal problems.

"It's critical for students to do these types of service projects," said Emmendorfer. "It raises awareness not only among the students, but the entire community, that problems such as homelessness really do exist."

Both Emmendorfer and Larry said they expect another successful drive. This year, they have extended the drive to Jackson elementary schools and have already seen encouraging numbers, according to Emmendorfer.

Laura Baugh, student service specialist at Jackson Junior High and THRIVE sponsor, expects they will see an impressive turnout this year.

"We raised nearly 3,200 pair last year," said Baugh. "We hope to at least double that number."

Larry says that although the students have worked hard to contribute to the drive, the drive could be advertised more within the community. She believes pushing community awareness could be the key to reaching donation goals.

"By advertising and making the community more aware, we could get more donations," said Larry.

Open donation boxes for "Teens for Jeans" can be found in front of every Jackson elementary school. Emmendorfer said anyone is allowed to drop off gently used jeans at these boxes any time until Feb. 6.

"I think having the open donation boxes will really help," said Emmendorfer. "Now, anyone in the community is welcome to come and contribute to our cause."

At the end of the drive, students will count and collect the donations before dropping them off at Aéropostale to be distributed to homeless shelters.

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