July 25, 2011

The Freshman Fifteen

Does everyone know about The Freshman Fifteen?

If you guessed the fifteen pounds American girls are supposed to gain their freshman year in college, you receive partial credit because that is, technically, one definition.

But I am not talking about muffin tops or thunder thighs.  (Thank goodness!  That is really not a topic ANYone wants to discuss!)

No, I am talking about an amazing organization that I'd like to spread the word about.  Here's the story:

A man in New York City was involved with a school in Harlem.  A very bright girl who attended that school was accepted to a prestigious New England college and, fortunately, given a scholarship to cover her tuition.  When the time came for her to go though, she had a problem: she had no way to get there - no car, and no money for a bus, train, or plane ticket.  Her mother, sadly, suffered from drug addiction.  She did not want her daughter to go away to school.  She wanted her to stay and work and support her.  She was in no position to help.  So the girl called the man at the school, and he arranged for a teacher to drive her to college.  The teacher arrived to pick the girl up at her projects apartment, and the girl came out to the car carrying nothing but a partially filled pillow case.  It contained all her possessions - the only things she would bring with her to college.

The teacher was dismayed.  This girl was heading off to college with nothing!  She had no bedding, no toiletries, no lamp, not even a pillow in her pillow case - none of the basics she would need for her dorm room.  The teacher called the man, who told her to stop at a Bed, Bath and Beyond on the way up and get the girl the basic necessities - he would pay for it.  So that's what the teacher did.

But the man realized this girl was not the only one in this situation.  He went home and told his wife, Mary, the story, and from that conversation The Freshman Fifteen was born.

Mary and her daughter Meaghan, a social worker in New York City, came up with a plan to raise money to buy the fifteen essential items kids would need to set up their dorm room - bedding, towels, a shower caddy and toiletries, a lamp, a fan, etc.  They called it The Freshman Fifteen.  

They describe their mission as follows:

Each year many at-risk high school seniors overcome the pitfalls of our most challenging neighborhoods, graduate from high school and are awarded college financial aid packages. While college aid packages may provide tuition, room and board, sadly, many of these students lack additional support for the all-important transition into college life.

The Freshman Fifteen is a modest, but targeted effort created to assist selected students through this transition by providing them dorm-room essentials. These include items that many of these students cannot afford and that many of us take for granted such as towels, sheets and blankets.

To that end, Mary and Meaghan began to make and sell jewelry.  Together, they go to New York City's bead district (who knew there was such a thing?!) and hand-pick beads of all kinds - agate, jade, sterling.  The beads are not inexpensive, even purchased wholesale.  Mary says when they first started, an ounce of sterling beads cost $11.  Today the same purchase is $40!  Then, using thread and impossibly tiny crochet needles, they weave the beads into beautiful, intricate designs - bracelets and necklaces in all colors of the rainbow.  Each bracelet takes many, many painstaking hours to complete, yet Mary and Meaghan sell them for an exceptionally reasonable price.  Here are just a few examples of their exquisite work:

all images taken from
And look!  Here's mine:
Pretty, isn't it?  Although actually, it doesn't show up very well on my kitchen counter.  I need a spotlight or something.  Wait!  I know!  I'll model it for you!
Hmm... still needs better light.  But I am GOOD at this!  I may have missed my calling.  Maybe I should have a career as a professional bracelet model!  But I digress....

Thanks to a deal with Bed, Bath and Beyond, Mary and Meaghan are able to outfit one student with the items they need for $500.  The first year they could help only a few out of their own pockets, but this past year they have helped 64 students head off to college with basic essentials they wouldn't have had otherwise.  Even more wonderful, this year they are expanding to Boston.  100% of proceeds from the sale of the jewelry goes to help these under-privileged college-bound kids.

Should you happen to be in the market for some unique and beautiful hand-made jewelry - for yourself, for a friend or family member's birthday, for a holiday gift when that time rolls around - please consider purchasing from The Freshman Fifteen.  Your gift will do double the good.  And Mary and Meaghan will make items to your specifications - you choose colors, materials and size - if you so desire.

What a generous service they provide for kids who really need it.

There are some genuinely wonderful people in the world, aren't there?

Please share the link with anyone who might be interested, especially teachers who might have students who could benefit.

Who do you know who is doing something good in the world?  Please share!


  1. This is just something that you don't think about with full scholarships--even if books, room/board, and tuition are paid for, there are so many extras that need to be taken care of. Those kids have worked so hard to get into colleges and they deserve a great Freshman start. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. Very amazing - thanks for the heads-up. I don't wear jewelry, but I will definitely pass the info on!

  3. Very interesting story and those bracelets are gorgeous.

  4. Jess - I know , it's so true. One tends to assume that with tuition, food, books taken care of kids are all set. But we take a lot for granted...

    Erica - I confess I rarely have an opportunity to wear jewelry either - it just doesn't seem necessary whilst scrubbing the toilets :) But this is really nice, and it was for a good cause :) Mary and Meaghan will be most grateful if you pass it on!

    Regina - glad you enjoyed the story and the bracelets!

  5. Wow, that jewellery is gorgeous!

  6. I'll certainly be passing on the link! Thanks for the heads-up on this great organization!

  7. The bracelets are lovely. What a great organization.

  8. So glad you like it, Ciara. They will be grateful if you care to spread the word :)


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