Teens help tackle homelessness with job kits

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a long-standing problem in New Mexico. Now a group of high schoolers is taking a new approach to tackle homelessness. They’re getting to the root of the issue by offering those in need the tools necessary to land a job.

Their slogan is “take a step towards greatness and everything will be A-OK.” They’ve dubbed their kits A-OK’s and they’re complete with everything you need to land a job.

“We can see we have our dress pants and our size shirt and dress show size. Also comes with belt, socks, toiletries,” says Great Academy student Isaac Ramirez.

Ramirez is part of the Great Academy’s Board of Young Executives. That’s the school’s equivalent to a student council. The Great Academy is a charter school where students say they focus on service-driven learning – that is, making a difference in their community.

Ramirez showed KRQE News 13 exactly what goes into each kit. Each box is gender specific and includes dress clothes and shoes suitable for an interview. Toiletries like shampoo, shaving cream and deodorant are also included.

In addition to looking the part, those who receive a box can act the part, too. Kits also include interview tips, a resume template and job applications to several local businesses.

Students say a national youth conference in Washington, D.C., inspired them to get involved in addressing homelessness.

“If you just give them food and blankets, it’s a temporary solution. It helps them feel better for the moment, but we want to give them the tools so they can feed themselves eventually and they can get their own blankets so that they’re in a more comfortable environment and they’re able to support themselves,” says Great Academy student Hadyn Enriquez.

Now, students are focused on getting their new product to those who can use it.

“We hope to develop this streamline process to where we don’t have to do this anymore. We have people that can see what they need, what sizes they have to write down and they can just distribute from there and we are just a carrier, pretty much, and supplier, basically,” says Ramirez.

Students say they hope to get the idea on the road so that it can help people across the nation.

This April, they’ll have that opportunity. They’ve been chosen to present the A-OK’s to thousands of students from across the country at this year’s National Youth Service Learning Conference in Washington, D.C.

They say the council heading up the conference told them, it’s because it’s a unique idea and they hadn’t seen anything like this before.

“We decided to get down to the root and people in D.C. were really impressed and we’re going to present there, so hopefully, this can be spread nationally so that it doesn’t start in just our community, that it’s just going to go and, like a spark, ignite in other communities as well,” Enriquez explains.

Students say there have been challenges along the way and obstacles to overcome, like getting all the donations necessary to put the kits together.

Plus, they say they have to find a way to get the kits to the people who need them.

So far, they say a number of homeless advocacy groups have expressed interest, like Heading Home.

If you’d like to make clothing donations for the kits, you can drop them off at the Great Academy on Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. The students also need help raising money for their trip to D.C. If you’d like to donate, you can visit their website. Monetary donations are tax deductible.

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