Taura Mizrahi with Nancy Gale and Jacquelyn Weischadle (ITF)
An incredible group of Los Angeles kids attending Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale are taking charge of their futures by participating in a program called In True Fashion. The program combines cause and commerce and challenges them to work in teams to design a handbag for the high-end bag company, Jamah. The final designs will be marketed by the students in a competition for votes and the winning bag will go into mass production.
Each team has a student in charge of marketing: writing press releases, creating web content, putting together collateral materials, and generally getting out the buzz on their team's bag. These students, boys and girls alike, are actively taking part in the project. Today's lesson included a conversation with Taura Mizrahi from The Write Approach about press releases, media alerts, identifying the audience, use of language, and finding the hook.
This group of bright high school seniors listened intently, asked pointed and thoughtful questions and brainstormed their hook to reach out to media (look out Oprah, these kids have some big plans for you!). While their backgrounds are diverse and their career goals widespread (the group ranged from a budding poet to an aspiring engineer), these young adults are tied together through this project learning how to communicate with one another, work within a business paradigm and create a tangible product with the potential to be available on the open market.
They are excited to tell their stories of how this experience has been different from all of their other school programs, how they love the hands-on experiential process of the program, and how it has taught them to work with others. One outspoken young man exclaimed that it has changed his life forever and he was quick to emphasize that he was the "last" person anyone would expect to be making purses. All of the boys nodded in agreement. One would think that a group of students learning about the design, manufacturing and marketing of purses would be largely female, but most of the students were male.
"They get that this is more than making a purse or a bag," says Nancy Gale founder of In True Fashion and Jamah. "They are learning life skills and starting to dream big. We are teaching them that there are no limits to what they can achieve."
The students all admitted that In True Fashion has helped open their eyes to see how learning about making purses is a springboard for them. They understand that they are learning to run a business, work together, and create solid skills to take with them into the future--including writing and communication skills--regardless of their career paths. Every student in the marketing group was genuinely interested in learning about press releases and hooks and understood how it applied to other areas besides their projects for In True Fashion.
Big things are coming for this group of seniors from Environmental Charter High School....just ask the White House. Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale is one of six schools that are finalists for President Obama's Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge and may have the honor of the President delivering their commencement speech this year. Now that's dreaming big!
Author's note: It's always inspiring to work with non-profits. For me working with young people proves to be particularly satisfying and enlightening. I think that they teach me more than I teach them, and I thank the kids at Environmental Charter High School for making my In True Fashion experience so special. I left feeling so positive and refreshed. I highly recommend finding a non-profit that inspires you; the rewards come back to you ten times over.