LLMS collects jeans for teens


Los Lunas Middle School students are collecting as many pairs of gently used jeans as they can by Friday, Feb. 8, for homeless teens in New Mexico.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Middle School students, pictured in front, from left, are Luke Wisneski, Laurent Nagy; in back, from left, Gabriel Gambia, Justin Riel, Laurent Jaramillo, Orlando Santillanes, Candace Johnston, Jared Gray and Haley Torrez are participating in ‘Teens for Jeans,’ a campaign to donate gently used jeans for homeless teens. It is a school-wide project, and all the jeans will go to homeless people in New Mexico.

There are 1.7 million homeless teens nationally, according to DoSomething.org, one of the largest organizations in the United States for teenagers involved in social change.

The organization launched “Teens for Jeans” five years ago, and this year, Los Lunas Middle School is participating. It is the only school in New Mexico actually competing in the sixth annual contest, but schools in the Los Lunas district and in Albuquerque have jumped in to help.

The competing school that collects the most jeans out of all the schools participating nationally wins a $10,000 grant, new hoodies for each student at the school and a party thrown by the clothing store Aéropostale.

“Even if we don’t win, they (the jeans) go to homeless teens around New Mexico,” said junior honor society student Gabriel Gamboa.

Spearheading the school effort are student council and junior honor society eighth graders, Gamboa, Candace Johnston, Jared Gray, Orlando Santillanes and Justin Riel.

“That’s the reason why we started it,” Johnston said. “It wasn’t just for the reward, it was because we’re helping homeless teens and their families.”

Johnston learned about Teens for Jeans at Aéropostale. It has collaborated with DoSomething.org’s Teens for Jeans campaign, and the effort has resulted in a whopping 2.5 million pairs of jeans so far.

Johnston asked the National Junior Honor Society sponsors, math teacher Alicia Ulibarri-Garcia, and science teacher Jason McKinney, if they could participate.

“We looked to our NJHS kids, and then some of our student council,” said Ulibarri-Garcia. “The kids involved are involved with all the school’s activities.”

They integrated the project into the Renaissance program as well, and started collecting jeans in December.

“It’s school-wide, and oh my gosh, our kids are just so into it,” Ulibarri-Garcia said. “The seventh-graders, as of this morning, collected 518 jeans, and the eighth grade had 543.”

Their goal is to collect 10,000 pairs of jeans, and they already have more than 2,000.

“Parents have been bringing them in — it’s a whole family event now,” she said. “Everybody is cleaning out their closets and bringing them in.”

Schools in the district are also helping the middle school collect jeans, and some of them are making it into their own little competitions in the process, she said.

“Some of the Albuquerque schools are helping us, too,” Johnston added. “I’ve been talking to the mayor, and he’s helping up in Albuquerque.”

They have also established a Facebook page, “Teens for Jeans NM,” and have a few famous sponsors, including comedian George Lopez.

Johnston gained his endorsement when she saw him getting out of his car at the Kiva Auditorium. She was attending a wedding with her family at the DoubleTree Hotel across the street.

“I saw him jump out of his car, and I was like, ‘Hi George,’” she said. “I had all these T-shirts and flyers in our car, and I pulled a T-shirt out and I was like, ‘Do you mind taking a picture with my T-shirt?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, what is this?’ So, I told him a little bit about it, and he said, ‘That’s amazing.’”

His picture is on the Facebook page along with others such as professional boxer Austin Trout and Miss USA of 2002, Shauntay Hinton.

“You can like us on our Facebook page, and it will help get the word out,” Johnston said.

Earlier this month, the school jump-started donations by using jeans as the price of admission to a student-teacher basketball game.

“It kicked it off again for the beginning of our semester,” Ulibarri-Garcia said.

Donated jeans can be dropped off at Los Lunas Middle School, Ambercare in Belen and Albuquerque, Sopa’s Restaurant, Southwest Grill and the Body N Soul Wellness Center in Bosque Farms, McDonald’s in Los Lunas, as well as the Albuquerque BioPark, Buffalo Exchange vintage and used clothing store, and Aéropostale at the Coronado Shopping Center in Albuquerque.

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.