Pacific Beach High School teens learn business, charity with clothing project

acornejo@thetribunenews.comMarch 16, 2013 

Inside an old, unused classroom at Pacific Beach High School, students are busy at work transforming the space into a clothing haven for their peers.

Freshly painted blue walls, racks of neatly hung clothing and shelves of paired shoes await students in need.

The project, dubbed Outreach Apparel, was launched in coordination with the San Luis Coastal School District and the Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast to provide free, used clothing for teens.

Baidan Cortez, 17, is one of a dozen students who have worked for about eight weeks to make the project a reality. The doors will officially open sometime next month.

“I think it is really important for teenagers to be able to maintain the appearance they want to project,” said Cortez, who said the clothes will appeal to a variety of tastes.

Students are earning course credit for running the project but the true lesson is happening behind the scenes.

Richard Lemus, 17, said he initially got involved to get the course credits but now is excited to be a part of it because he knows it will help others.

“I know right now that not every student is in a good economic situation,” Lemus said.

Social science teacher Jeff Aranguena said students are learning how to run a business and about job interviews in addition to the value of doing community service.

Managers from local retailers such as Kohls and Old Navy have stepped up to donate supplies like hangers and will talk with students about what it takes to run a small business.

Home Depot will soon build a fitting room and donated the paint and other supplies needed to get the room ready.

“As soon as I came to talk to the students, my heart ached,” said Cheri Meza, a manager at Kohls. “What these students are doing is awesome.”

Outreach Apparel is the second of its kind to open in San Luis Obispo County through the Children’s Resource Network.

Arroyo Grande’s Teen Closet, a place where disadvantaged and homeless teens or their parents can pick out and try on donated clothing, offers toiletries, school supplies and towels as well.

The Teen Closet, at the Arroyo Grande Care Center on Farroll Avenue, is run by residents, many in their 80s and 90s. It opened in November 2011 and has already had 800 children use the program, said Lisa Ray, who founded Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast.

“Many of these kids were raised in an environment without positive role models,” Ray said. “This is letting students know that they are a value and are important and that there are wonderful opportunities for them in life.”

For Ryan Fiscus, 18, the program brings him full circle. When he was younger he had to rely on programs like Outreach Apparel to get new clothing.

“This is an opportunity to give back to those who need it,” Fiscus said.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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