Teenagers Today: Welcome to My World
"I Want to Make a Difference"
Selena Lester, 17 Hometown: Renton, Washington School: Charles A. Lindbergh High School
Twice a year, at Thanksgiving and in April, I have a blanket, food and clothing drive for the homeless. My Girl Scout troop, family and friends from high school and all over the place pass out fliers telling people what we're going to collect and when we will pick it up.
I donate directly to men and women sleeping on the street. When I was a junior Scout, we took clothes to a women's abuse shelter, but I wasn't able to have one-on-one encounters with them. It made me curious, so I wanted to go out on the streets. And my parents were like, okay. The very first time, there was this fear about going out at night in a creepy area.
But after the first couple of drop-offs, it was easy for me to approach people and not worry about what they look like or how they act.
Usually, we go out at midnight. My family packs into my mom's Suburban, and we grab one of my friends and drive around. If people are asleep, I put blankets on them and food next to them. If they're awake, I offer whatever I have. I've had only one rejection so far. I've gotten to know people. Last April, I came across a guy who was living in a tent beneath a bridge. I asked if he'd like water and food, and when I peeked inside the tent, he said, "Oh, I remember you from last year."
We're going to get a nonprofit license for the project and call it Pookie's Company, after the teddy bear in the cartoon strip Garfield. I think people would be more apt to donate if they know we won't hit them up for money. It will happen early next year -- just in time for my little sister to take over. She's the same age that I was when I started the drive. People think teenagers are just a bunch of slackers. I decided to change their minds. I figure that if one person can make a difference, it will make up for those who have done wrong in the past.