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Charity is in the jeans for Wilde Lake students

Somewhere among the nearly 500 pairs of donated jeans and khakis that drape the corridors of Wilde Lake High School are a pair with a display of rhinestones on blue denim. Wilde Lake senior Tyesesha Beasley was more than willing to give them away.

"My mother bought them, and I don't like jewels on my jeans, so I said, 'Let me give them to someone who will wear them,' " said Beasley, among scores of students who have taken part in the school's Teens for Jeans project.

As an effort to promote schoolwide charity, Wilde Lake High students chose the project, part of a national outreach effort that encourages students to donate trousers for students at area homeless shelters.

Teens for Jeans was launched by the New York-based nonprofit, which encourages young people to embrace social responsibility. The organization's website says it has collected 3.5 million pairs of jeans in six years.

Through the school website, Wilde Lake encouraged students to donate jeans and khakis that were "too big, too small, too short or just unloved." Students urged classmates to get involved, noting that nearly one-third of all homeless people are youth — and jeans are among the most requested items for them.

The jeans were to be sent to the Aeropostale apparel store at The Mall in Columbia and ultimately delivered to homeless shelters. Sue Bullock, a Wilde Lake High School career resource development teacher who led the donation effort, said promotions were also made through a school video and parent e-newsletters.

Some students posted news about the project on their Facebook pages, and the high school encouraged students at its feeder school, Wilde Lake Middle School, to take part. The collection began Jan. 29 and ran through Wednesday.

As the jeans started rolling in, Bullock decided to illustrate the effort in a way that other fundraisers would not easily allow. She and the students turned the halls of the three-story school into a virtual clothesline, where jeans of all lengths, widths and inseams were hanging last week in a collage of color and style.

"An event where people can see the generosity of their classmates is so impressive," Bullock said. "High schools in Howard County have homeless kids in them. It's a matter of helping kids just like them."

Hanging along the school's corridors were nearly 500 testaments to growing up, reflecting growth spurts, weight gains, tastes, trends and individual expressions.

Wilde Lake senior Shatiarra Powell donated seven pairs of jeans, including a pair she bought just before she grew a few inches. "They turned into 'high waters,' " said Powell, referring to pants so short that people jokingly say they don't get wet during a flood.

Wilde Lake senior Maricela Iaya donated a dark blue pair from American Eagle. "They were pretty, but since I lost weight, I just turned them in instead of throwing them in the trash," Iaya said.

Another senior, Maliyah Ison, works at Aeropostale and said after promoting the donation drive and receiving a few pairs of jeans, the group wanted to hang them up "so people could see that we're really serious about what we were doing."

The school displayed more than 100 pairs of pants over the first two days.

"As the days went on, more jeans came in," said Ison, who donated a purple pair that she purchased for herself but then discovered "I couldn't find anything to match them. They're hanging down by the library in the corner."

Some students were taken aback by what others gave.

"We collected a pair of Lucky Brand jeans, and they're not expensive-expensive, but they're good-quality jeans," Beasley said. "Some had tags still on them."

Joe Morawski, store manager at Aeropostale at the Columbia mall, said the store has participated in Teens for Jeans for seven years and donates 10,000 pairs of jeans to the effort itself.

He said the Columbia store works with about a half-dozen Howard County schools for the charity, but "Wilde Lake has spearheaded the best drive. Definitely, their creativity is by far the best."

The students say the effort has shown them the difference an old pair of denim can make — especially during a cold winter.

"People are going to need them," said junior Pablo Rodriguez. "Instead of dumping them in the trash, donate them. You actually make a difference because you're helping people that need your help."

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