FORT LAUDERDALE — Two schools teamed up to support youths and families who are homeless, as students and staff at Broward Virtual School and Coconut Palm Elementary School in Miramar made an impact by collecting more than 750 pairs of jeans and other articles of new and gently worn clothing (pants, shorts, skorts, tops, jackets).
During the “Kids for Jeans” campaign, students and staff rummaged through their closets and dresser drawers to find items to donate while encouraging others in the community to do the same.
During the 2010/11 school year, 56,680 school-age children in Florida were identified as homeless by local school districts (Florida’s Council On Homelessness). Family homelessness reportedly is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in the country.
To do something about it, the schools’ Student Ambassadors took on a leadership role, and were given the challenge to raise awareness on youth homelessness, to their peers, neighborhood, and community.
This year’s ambassadors were: Ethan Barnes, Maxwell Dixon, Raeqwon Jackson, Anais Lozada, Javier Lozada, Katherine Sims, Osmar Valencia and Lashon Warner-Randolph of Broward Virtual School; and Genesis Escarment, Ryan Gonzalez, Derrick Hall Jr., Kennedy Hamilton, Isaac Lanzas, Gabriella Neves and Gabriella Rubio of Coconut Palm Elementary.
The campaign was organized by staff members Ruth DeMelo, Christopher Gates and Felicia Rigby.
Each year the ambassadors decide which charities or organizations receive the jeans at the end of the effort.
With more than 150 families on a waiting list for shelter, and close to 20 families sleeping in their cars or on the street each night, the ambassadors’ goal at the and of the Jan. 14 – Feb. 15 campaign was to ensure that contributions directly benefit adolescents and families seeking emergency/temporary shelter, transitional housing and crisis intervention for runaway, abused and neglected children.
This year’s Kids for Jeans recipients are Broward Outreach Center, one of the first emergency shelters offering a comprehensive recovery program for the homeless in South Broward County; and Covenant House, which provides emergency/temporary shelter and crisis intervention for youths under 21 and youths with babies.
This is the third year Coconut Palm has launched the initiative, and the first year for Broward Virtual School.
The past two drives collected more than 1,000 pairs of jeans that were donated to a local charity and homeless shelter.