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After-school Crafts for a Greener Planet

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In a time where green consciousness has become mainstream for urbanites and rural folk alike, the lifestyle and initiatives surrounding green living have become a trend in most communities. Though for some neighborhoods, like inner-city areas in Los Angeles, resources -- such as comprehensive recycling programs, or the disposable income to institute such ambitions -- are lacking. What better opportunity then, to teach the children of these communities green skills?

The students in After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles Green and Recycled Arts programs are learning that artistic expression can exist in a variety of forms and are taking random household materials to create reusable items and wonderful works of art.

After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA) is a leading after-school program provider whose programs educate, enlighten and inspire thousands of students each day through after-school activities centered around health, fitness and nutrition; the visual and performing arts; and youth leadership and community service learning. ASAS-LA brings innovative, cutting-edge enrichment programs to K-12 students that contribute to reducing drug use, crime and violence; while increasing their safety during the after school hours. The organization serves 5,000 students daily across 36 schools located in deserving areas throughout LA County.

The youths in the program come from families of limited means, so they are not only learning how to reduce impact, they are learning how to create items, such as handbags and wallets, that they are not necessarily able to afford.

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"It's a very cool class, because you get to express yourself... I don't know how else to explain it, but it feels like me" says Valerie, an 8th grader in the program. "We use stuff to make new things. It's really cool... otherwise, we would just throw the items away!"

Baseball cards and tape have elicited new wallets that the students decorate with colored pens, paints and stickers. Old, torn pairs of jeans have enabled the kids to create handbags used to carry books and other personal items. Discarded, tattered clothing has been sewed, stitched and cultivated into new, stylish outfits.

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"It's great," says Vanessa Gutierrez, the school manager overseeing the green program. "My students are learning valuable knowledge and skills -- a lifestyle of recycling can only benefit the future. Also, they are learning how to create items they need and also express themselves in a creative fashion. In communities filled with violence, safe self-expression is necessary."

When asked about what she would like to see evolve for the unique program, Vanessa states that she would like to see a platform where her kids' projects can be sold. Money would be used to for crafting materials such as glue, paints, sewing materials and other crating items needed to further the green and recycled art initiatives.

"The students in the program are reducing their impact from households with little consumption, and it's their hope that more affluent areas can do the same."

After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles gives the youths it serves the direction, exposure and hope for a brighter future. Perhaps the newly introduced green lifestyle will create a more resourceful one, too.

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To learn more about the organization, please visit: www.la-allstars.org.

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