Never underestimate the power of needle and thread. For over six years Turning Heads has been helping San Francisco's young women of color get off the streets via vocation arts education and entrepreneurial training.
Geared at female students ages 14-18, their successful Sewing and Fashion Design Program works closely with at-risk youth from the Mission, Potrero Hill, Bayview Hunters Point, Tenderloin and the Haight -- about 80-100 girls from local high schools participate in the program each year. The program's goal, according to Executive Director Jane Segal, is to build young women's vocational, leadership and business skills, as well as contributing to their financial, personal and social success.
Segal is also the business mentor of Sweet Dreams Cooperative, a youth-operated business enterprise of the Turning Heads program. The highly dedicated members participate in all aspects of the co-op including product design, production, inventory, bookkeeping and marketing.
Examples of the co-op merchandise include their popular organic lavender eye pillows, yoga mat bags, dream pillows and zip cases. The price range is $16-$35 and they can be found at local craft fairs and at several San Francisco businesses (Rainbow Grocery, Scarlet Sage Herb Company and Yoga Tree).
The following stories from Sweet Dreams co-op members and graduates showcase the success of the Turning Heads program:
Being a part of Turning Heads and Sweet Dreams has vastly changed Samantha Sherman life. Sherman welcomed the opportunity to be in a safe, creative environment. "I also learned the ins and outs of customer service," Sherman said. "Now I'm more of a go-getter. I use the people skills and apply them in my life. This place is learning, growth and maturity." Sherman is attending San Francisco State University in the fall to study psychology and plans to become a trauma counselor. Photo by Jane Segal
Turning Heads was a safe, fun space to get Maria Tapia off the streets. The program changed her lifestyle and she developed a talent for sewing. Tapia now works at CARECEN, a nonprofit that works with immigrant families in the city. Tapia also attends college part time and has a side alterations business. Her dream is to work as an advocate for immigrant youth. Photo by Jane Segal
A member of the first Turning Heads class, Nadia Johnson is a graduate of Immaculate Conception Academy. "I loved learning how to make new things," Johnson said. "I could make what I couldn't afford." With the Sweet Dreams program she learned to operate a business as well as building friendships. "I was real shy before -- at the craft fairs I had to be able to interact, be accountable." Johnson is now enrolled in the pre-nursing program at City College of San Francisco and works on her own sewing projects. She also a co-teacher at Turning Heads. Photo by Jane Segal
A graduate of the Academy of Arts & Science, Orisa Fonseca loved making new friends at Turning Heads and working with her hands. The program also helped her release stress from school. Being a member of Sweet Dreams opened many doors for Fonseca -- she might study fashion design and will attend College of San Mateo in the fall. Photo by Jane Segal
Raised in Bayview, Veronica Baron is a senior at International Studies Academy. Baron first worked with Turning Heads through her high school and eventually joined the Sweet Dreams Cooperative. She discovered that she can make a living as an artist and would like to attend college as well as study art, business, jewelry making and makeup arts. Photo by Jane Segal
Turning Heads participants make handmade products such as eye pillows, yoga cases and purses. Photo: Mark Dawson Studio