OLYMPIA - As a high school freshman, Haylee Tiner was using drugs and bouncing around among various high schools, unsure of her future and in need of a helping hand.
She sought assistance from Rosie’s Place, a Community Youth Services program that’s aimed at helping people 21 and younger connect with resources for food, shower vouchers, drug and alcohol treatment, finding a job and other programs. She received a donation of clothing, and four years later she has more than repaid the favor.
This month, she presented Rosie’s Place with 2,000 items of clothing, all donated by and collected from students and staff members at Olympia High School, where Tiner now is a student.
“I know how it is, and I want to help other people,” said Tiner, 18. “I want to help people the way that people helped me.”
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She spearheaded the three-week clothing drive at Olympia High as a school project, intending to gather 500 items of clothing.
“We got that in the first week,” she said.
The clothes piled up in classrooms and the school’s front office, Tiner said. Each week, she took all the clothes home to count and occasionally wash. Her parents “were OK with that, as long as I didn’t wash all of them,” she said.
Tiner said she came into contact with Community Youth Services, which helps at-risk young people, through Rosie’s Place. She needed the help, she said; in ninth grade, she attended seven high schools.
“I was hanging out with some of the youth in downtown Olympia. When I needed clothing, they told me I could come here and they had a clothing closet,” she said this week during an interview at Community Youth Services.
Tiner credits a drug-treatment program with helping her turn her life around. She enrolled in Community Youth Services’ Career Trek program, which helps young people gain work experience, and is taking nine classes at Olympia High this semester in an attempt to make up school credits she had missed earlier, earning mostly A’s and B’s. A typical high school load is six or seven classes.
“It’s hard work trying to get my life on track,” she said.
“She has shown she really has a lot of initiative and drive to complete anything she set her mind to,” said Erin Yousey, Tiner’s Career Trek case manager. “I’m not surprised about what she’s been able to accomplish. She’s already started to do quite a bit for her community, and it shows others what they are able to accomplish.”
Olympia High School principal Matt Grant attested to how hard Tiner works.
“When I get there at 6:45 a.m., she’s the first person I see,” he said.
Grant said Tiner persevered, despite occasional frustrations with getting the project organized and off the ground.
“A lot of kids will give up when they hit red tape. Some kids get more determined,” he said. “That’s a sign of leadership.”
Tiner said that she plans to hold another clothing drive in February, with a goal of collecting 5,000 items.
“With what I’ve learned from this one, I can make the one in February even better,” she said. “That won’t be part of my culminating project. This is just trying to help out.”
Tiner said her ultimate goal is to help troubled young people, and she wants to study psychology, nonprofit business and social work.
“I’ve gotten clean and I’m doing good in school,” she said. “And if I can do it, I think anyone can.”
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