Vivian Vasquez, a high school senior who works at a national fast-food chain in Manhattan, had a few issues with her uniform. "It was itchy, uncomfortable, hot, and unattractive," she says. "And I don't think people serving food should scratch or look dorky." With the help of a volunteer tutor in her high school design class, Vivian found a cooler mesh fabric and whipped up new designs that resemble club wear. "They feel good and are fast to put on." Encouraged by her tutor's praise, she plans to present her ideas to the restaurant's management. "I wouldn't have done that without a push from Norma," she says.

Norma is three-time Coty Award-winning fashion designer Norma Kamali, who has adopted design classes at three New York City high schools. One of these is her alma mater, Washington Irving, whose students come mostly from low- to middle-income families. When Kamali first told a class that she was there to help teach, a big kid in the back row just had to ask, "Okay, so what's in it for you?"

"Great question," said Kamali. "I had so much help when I sat in your seats more than 30 years ago. Now it's my turn to help, and someday it will be your turn to help."

What You Can Do
To find out more about Norma Kamali's organization, visit The Web site displays New York City Public School students' artwork and offers information on hiring interns.

Other ways to reach out to kids:
  • If you have an hour a week: Volunteer to work with the YMCA's Arts and Humanities Program. You might be asked to take a group of kids to a museum or teach a child how to draw. To find the YMCA nearest you, call 800-872-9622 or log on to
  • If you have one day a week: Help the Streetcats Foundation's Kids Surfer Project. The group sets up free computer centers for teens across the country. It needs volunteers to raise money as well as teach word processing and Web site design classes. For details call 510-444-6074 or check out
  • If you have one day a month: Motivate kids to read by pitching in at your local National Book Program, which distributes free books to children through elementary schools and public libraries. You might be asked to help hand out books, read to kids, or organize activities. Call 877-743-7323 or visit


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