Shopping for a cause: Student-run thrift store underscores San Diego Unified values - #BetterSD

Posted: Tuesday, November 13th 2018

Students shopping holding up clothes
Patrick Henry HS students in the on-campus thrift shop

Twice a week when classes let out for the day, students at Patrick Henry stream into a small room in the heart of this sprawling San Carlos campus – in the hope of snagging everything from a vintage prom dress to perfectly faded jeans to the ultimate ironic T-shirt.

The room is bustling with students sifting through an impressive selection of clothes, shoes and accessories – all sold for a buck.

Welcome to the Patrick Henry Thrift Store, an enterprising student-run operation that supports foster and homeless youth, helps the environment, and offers life skills to special-education students.

While the cheap prices and colorful merchandise may appeal to these teenage shoppers, they are aware of the lasting impact of their investment.

“Because of this, we can help students here who struggle for basic needs,” said Eliza Rosales, president of the Interact Club, which uses some of the proceeds to benefit foster and homeless students.

The thrift store evolved from a clothing exchange established in Lara Dickens’ AP environmental science class as an effort to promote “upcycling” and help those who needed an extra jacket from time to time.

As interest grew among parents, teachers and students, the effort evolved into a thrift store. Student leaders gain experience managing the operation, including special education students who help to organize merchandise.

Last year, the thrift store proceeds helped pay for laptops for college-bound seniors who couldn’t afford computers. Homeless and foster students also shop (anonymously) for free in the store. Families and employees provide ample donations.       

“I really appreciate the heart that everyone puts into, and I think it’s felt by everyone and that’s why it works,” said Dickens, who advises the student clubs that run the thrift store.

When Superintendent Cindy Marten sought examples of students becoming agents of change in their communities to highlight in her recent State of the District Address, she thought of Patrick Henry Thrift Store.

Marten has even shopped at the thrift store. She purchased some jewelry, including a necklace outfitted with a  pendant made from a vintage typewriter key – M for Marten – that appealed to her love of literacy.

“The students and teachers who work to make this thrift store happen embody so many of the values that San Diego Unified holds,” Marten said. “Talk about student voice and student agency. These entrepreneurial students are working together to improve their community on multiple levels.”

Marten proudly wore the jewelry she bought at Patrick Henry Thrift Store when she delivered her State of the District Address.

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