Wynne High School students are making a difference

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-A group of Region 8 high school students are putting down their pencils and books to combat teen homelessness.

Wynne High School East Lab students Shelbi Hinkle and Sammie Smith are holding a jean drive in collaboration with Aeropostale Clothing.

These two young ladies have placed a number of boxes throughout the community.

Residents can then drop off new or gently used jeans into them.

The students will then take these donations to the Aeropostale clothing store in Jonesboro for distribution to those in need.

Senior Shelbi Hinkle says when they first came across the numbers for teen homelessness, it made them pause.

"We started looking for ways we could help the community, " Hinkle said. "We came across this. We had no idea so many teens were homeless."

Smith said this was a project they could identify with.

"We wanted to do this for the simple fact that it relates to us, " Smith stated. "We are teens and there are homeless teens out there in the world that need help. And it's good, knowing the fact that we're able to help them by having something like this."

Smith said she and Hinkle were stunned.

"It was shocking, " Smith stated. "It was such a big number of teens that are homeless. Because, you know, most people don't think of teens being homeless. And it was just, it wasn't realistic. It's just scary. It's very shocking."

East Facilitator at Wynne High School, Leslie Ballard, believes these students are taking away as much as they're giving from this experience.

"They get a sense of work ethic, " Ballard said. "They learn things such as how to meet deadlines, how to be responsible and get the things done they say they're going to do. They also learn to communicate, contact people. It's really just amazing all they do and accomplish because I am in the background. I coordinate some things, but the project they do is theirs. They do all the work."

Hinkle says she's thrilled to get the opportunity to help others.

"It makes me feel really good inside and I feel like I'm make a big difference in people's lives."

Smith believes community projects are something everyone should take part in.

"Being involved in something like this is very life changing. " Smith stated. "You're helping people that you don't even know. And it's different because you're reaching out in a way to help someone and make a difference. You're helping people who aren't as fortunate as you are."

Hinkle, "I feel like people should take things like this into consideration and do more of it and help more people. People need to realize how many others, out there, go without."

Ballard says after seeing all her students can make happen, she believes other schools should follow their lead.

"I think that if you have the students that are willing to do it, " Ballard said. "You would be amazed at what they can accomplish if they're motivated. And I think it's your job, as a teacher, to help them get motivated to get them there. And don't always say no. Say what if?"

Over the past four years, the Aeropostale campaign has collected 1.5 million pairs of jeans nationwide.

Statistics show that one in every three homeless people in the United States are under the age of 18.

This year, one in two hundred and sixty runaways and homeless youth will die from assault, illness or suicide.

The jean drive will continue through February the 12th.

There are twenty-one students in this class and each student is working on some sort of community project where they go out and work with people.

The other students in East Lab are involved in such things as building an energy bicycle that, by using pedal power, generates enough energy to run a laptop computer.

They are competing in the Green School Challenge against 40 other schools across Arkansas to see who can become the most "green".

They are working in Youth Suicide Prevention PSA contest where they coordinate with the local police, coroner, and EMT services.

They are also competing in a Anti-Teen Violence PSA contest over teen dating violence.

For more information about Wynne High School, log onto this website.

For information about the nationwide campaign, click onto this site.

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