03/06/12 — Teenagers decide to devote their time to helping others

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Teenagers decide to devote their time to helping others

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 6, 2012 1:46 PM


Reyann Legarreta, a seventh-grader at Greenwood Middle School, works on signs for the Pennies for a Purpose fundraiser for American Red Cross. Reyann is part of the Care Teens program, formed by six classmates at the school to participate in service projects.

Seventh-graders in the Care Teens group during their recent Teens for Jeans project are, from left, Tamia Troublefield, Katlyn Leahy, Crystal Wooten, Reyann Legarreta, Davia Webb and Tela Bivins.

Crystal Wooten is a self-proclaimed behind-the-scenes person.

She's content to share her ideas and watch them come to fruition.

So when the seventh-grader at Greenwood Middle School read a book about poverty, it sparked a movement within her circle of friends.

Call it the power of six.

Crystal and her classmates -- Tela Bivins, Katie Leahy, Reyann Legarreta, Tamia Troublefield and Davia Webb -- learned about a national project sponsored by Aeropostale, "Teens for Jeans," collecting denim to be distributed to homeless shelters around the country.

"It started off with Crystal. She asked me to join along," said Tamia. "We spent like a week talking about all the things that homeless kids go through and how we can make a difference to change their lives."

Before the group could launch the effort, though, they decided to establish things officially.

"They did a petition to actually start it and they carried it to (principal Rolanda) Best and she approved it," said Lisa McElwee, school librarian, who in turn agreed to sponsor the group.

Calling themselves Care Teens, the girls meet every day during fourth period to discuss projects and implementation.

They delegate responsibilities based on strengths and keep the teen drama to a minimum.

"We came up with this thing, when we had too many conflicts, we can be mad at each other afterward," Crystal said.

Tamia said it was important to stay focused on their collective mission.

"This is for the homeless kids, don't let them down," she said. "But most of the time we're friends."

In addition to obtaining signatures from classmates to support the group's formation, the girls were pleasantly surprised by the outpouring that followed.

They set a lofty goal of 500 pairs of jeans.

"We thought we weren't going to get a lot," Crystal admitted.

"I never imagined we would have gotten over 1,000 (pairs of jeans)," Tamia added. "When we got 47, I thought that was a lot."

Donations continued to pour in.

"One day we had 300 and by the end of the day we had like 600. Parents kept bringing them in," Tamia said. "Then it was extended, so we got 600 more."

By project's end, the girls spending more and more time folding, counting and re-tallying the numbers, they had a grand total of 1,216 pairs.

"Unfortunately, we got beat by a school in Raleigh, but they were like a bigger school," said Ms. McElwee of the contest itself. "They got 4,000."

Crystal shrugged off the comparison. After all, the Care Teens got involved late. And anyway, she said, it was all about the recipients.

"Next year, we'll be ahead," she said.

The friends have moved on to another goal -- Pennies for a Purpose, a countywide project to elicit money for Red Cross.

But it won't stop there, the classmates say.

"Anything that pretty much helps anybody, like things for unfortunate people that don't have anything, and animals," Crystal said.

"Animals and recycling and homeless kids," chimed in Tamia.

"This is our first big push we did," Ms. McElwee said. "Honestly, y'all just started talking. ... Then after all this, it's like, what else can we do?"

The Care Teens have a sense of satisfaction in knowing their passion was shared by others in the student body.

"It showed that people really cared," Tela said.

"A lot of people want to join," Reyann added.

And while that's flattering, the friends say they prefer to remain a grassroots effort.

"We want to just keep it a small circle, but we need more help," Crystal said.

"We want to keep it like a team. We don't want it to be so big it's an organization," Tamia said.