Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho could be walking through a boutique, but the brand-new establishment, called the Up-Start store, is reserved for an exclusive clientele.
"It's pretty amazing, looks just like a regular store, right?" said Carvalho, walking through aisles of clothing and shoes.
Everything on the shelves is donated and reserved for homeless kids in Miami-Dade's school system. Karen Fryd helped raise the money and goods to stock the store.
"I'm really excited for the kids, some of the stuff that's donated is just beautiful, a lot of things have the tags on, there's shoes that are barely worn, and I know the kids will use them and enjoy them," said Fryd, who runs the South Florida Youth Foundation.
Carvalho said it's the public-private partnerships that make the up-start store possible. For instance, the Toms shoe company donated 2,000 pairs of brand-new shoes.
"To understand the trials and tribulations, the tragedies that these children face, we have to literally and figuratively walk in their shoes, and they come in all sizes," said Carvalho, holding up a tiny toddler's shoe at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.
Everything in the store is free for homeless kids. They are identified by social workers in their schools, and there are roughly 6,000 homeless students in Miami-Dade Public Schools.
"320 of them are unaccompanied minors," Carvalho said. "These are children who do not have a father or mother, a relative, they are on their own."
Like the teenager who called us on her way to a job interview, a client of the upstart store, who asked to remain anonymous. She said the store is proof that people care.
"I want to dress in a dignified manner and everything, and they just make it happen, they make it possible for me to do that, and i think everyone deserves that, whether you're homeless or not," said the homeless teen, who goes to a vocational school.
"It gives me chills to know that kids will be walking through these doors and be able to shop in privacy for whatever they need," said DianaVventurini, who leads the school district's office of community engagement.
Instead of being stigmatized with the "homeless" label, the kids can wear designer labels, thanks to generous donors and a boutique carved out of vacant office space deep inside the school district's headquarters.
The public can help by donating money, gift cards from stores like Target or Wal-Mart, or new and gently used clothing, shoes, backpacks, and ties. Go to www.Giveourstudentstheworld.Org, or call directly at 305-995-1367 to make arrangements for donations.