After a year-long effort to teach their peers about clothing sustainability, a group of Homestead High School students is now receiving statewide recognition. The teens are members of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and their Community Service project placed first at the statewide competition in April. They now have a chance to present the project at FBLA’s national conference this summer.
“Fast fashion is so far-reaching, especially in high school. Students, we’re surrounded by fast fashion, whether it’s retail therapy or the clothes that we constantly buy,” said project co-chair Saanika Patel. “I’m really grateful that we could spread this message to be more mindful about the clothes that we wear and the clothes that we buy.”
The Homestead sophomore and her team worked with FabMo, a Sunnyvale nonprofit that takes designer samples that would otherwise be thrown out and makes them available to the creative community.
“One of the things that FabMo was looking for was improving their social media presence,” said Patel. “So, on our own Homestead FBLA account, we launched Instagram campaigns. And we also launched a campaign on FabMo’s Instagram account.”
In addition to helping FabMo with social media, the students connected the nonprofit with Homestead’s California Scholarship Federation (CSF) to provide FabMo with a source of approximately 300 high school-aged volunteers.
The final step of the project was a clothing drive.
“The majority of clothes that people no longer want get thrown away, whether you donate them to Goodwill, or you literally throw them away yourself,” said Samhitha Varanasi, the project’s co-chair. “With this in mind, that the majority of clothes are thrown away, that’s not very sustainable. So, we decided to host a drive so that these clothes that would have been thrown away, could go to the people that actually need them the most.”
The teens collected 850 pounds of clothes and gave about 80% of what was collected to families within the Homestead community who needed them. The rest was donated to a Bay Area homeless shelter.
Both teens say they learned a lot through the course of the project, not just about clothing sustainability, but also some life lessons.
“If I were to take one lesson from this whole entire experience, kind of cliche, but I would say if you can dream it, you can do it,” said Varanasi. “At the very beginning of the year, we had these super aggressive goals set for ourselves, and they kind of seemed out of reach, but we wanted to push the boundaries, just go for it. That is exactly what we ended up doing because with that mentality, we were able to take all of our passion for the topic of clothing, sustainability, and convert that into actual action and we surpassed our goals by a lot.”
“I think one of the biggest things I learned was patience,” said Patel. “Obviously, working with other high schoolers, it requires patience. You have to explain to them. I think patience also when we were actually contacting 25-plus businesses, to see if we could work with them, collaborate with them. So that also required a lot of patience, because oftentimes, they wouldn’t get back to us. Sometimes, we would get frustrated, you know, why don’t they want to work with us? But I think through that, I’ve learned to be a lot more patient with other people.”