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Sara Zaghi: Collecting Clothes & Shortening Showers

We all have that pair of jeans tucked in the back of our closet that we know we’ll totally fit into someday. Well, if you’ve finally decided to give up hope on squeezing into those 5-year-old skinnies, we’ve got a great new home for them. Since her freshman year of high school, Sara Zaghi has been collecting thousands of jeans for homeless teens. Denim accumulation isn’t this girl’s only talent. Sara also started an initiative to turn up your daily shower routine while turning down your water use. Lather, rinse, save the environment and repeat!

Name: Sara Zaghi
Age: 19
College: University of California, Los Angeles
Major: Communication Studies
Graduation Year: 2019

Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Sara Zaghi: While I am extremely proud of my jean collection drive, I would have to say my greatest achievement to date is the national campaign I created with DoSomething.org, one of the largest non-profits for young people under 25. My campaign, Shower Songs, encourages young people to create a timed playlist for the shower in order to take shorter showers and conserve water. The campaign went live on their website, which has more than 4 million members, in November 2014. Since then the campaign has gotten the attention of over 80,000 teens as well as “Shower” singer Becky G. This campaign is especially important to me because I live in California, which is in a drought right now. Water is very important and we need to do our part to save it.

HC: What was the hardest part of creating and running your jean collection drive?

SZ: The hardest part of creating and running my jean drive was getting people motivated and excited about it. I started the drive during freshman year of high school when our student council adviser asked us to brainstorm ideas for meaningful projects to pursue. Jeans are the most requested item in homeless shelters, so I suggested we start jean collection drive at our school. Because I was a freshman, many of my peers disregarded my idea. However, I persisted and our adviser eventually selected my idea. After only collecting 800 pairs of jeans our first year, I did not give up. Five years later and I have collected over 16,000 pairs of jeans – enough to clothe each homeless teen in Los Angeles – and created an annual community jean drive involving over 20 local businesses and 10 schools. At first it was hard getting these businesses and schools involved, but after a few said yes others decided it was a good idea too. By working together, we made a difference in our community. I feel empowered to know that young people can make a difference through teamwork and hard work.

HC: Why has your participation with this drive been so instrumental in your life?

SZ: My participation with this drive sparked a love for leadership, service and business within me. It inspired me to start my own DoSomething club dedicated to participating in campaigns benefiting various causes. It also helped me learn leadership skills which I incorporated though my involvement in student government in high school and even college. It gave me the courage to step up and be a leader in my community. It gave me real world experience working with business owners to collaborate on the drive and press outlets to promote the drive. I worked with Buffalo Exchange to create a partnership for collecting jeans for our drive. I also worked with singer-songwriter Ryan Beatty to plan a benefit concert. Most importantly, it connected me with a group of dedicated volunteers who wanted to make a difference in this world- one pair of jeans at a time.

This drive took place every year from January to March, which meant that the other nine months of the year were dedicated to planning the drive and making sure we were ready to collect. It has been almost six years working on this project and I am so proud of how far we have come. It really is a big part of my life and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it. It opened so many doors for me and has really helped me grow as a person. It also helped clothe so many homeless teens in my community and brings our community together for a greater cause.  

HC: Who in your life most inspires you?

SZ: My parents! Dreaming of a better world for their children, they escaped Iran after the revolution, leaving behind their home and possessions in search of a new beginning. As Iranian Jews, my parents were the target of hatred, discrimination and inequity. They came to this country with nothing but each other, their education and a good work ethic. Their heroic story is a living reminder of how fortunate I am, and it has inspired me to dedicate myself to improving the lives of others. They inspire me to work hard and stand up for what I believe in. My parents’ courage and sacrifice have taught me what it means to be a leader.

HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?

SZ: My advice for other ambitious collegiettes would be to never give up. I’m sure you’ve all heard that a million times, but I can’t stress how important it is. There are so many times where I almost gave up on my jean drive, where people told me it was a waste of time, but I didn’t give in- instead I worked harder. Also, come up with creative and unique ways of achieving your goal that will set you apart from others. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?

SZ: Since I am only a sophomore, I’m not exactly 100 percent sure what I will be doing with my life. I feel like I still have a lot of time to figure that out through my various experiences and internships. I love the entertainment industry and can definitely see myself working in PR or marketing, but I also have a strong love and passion for community service. I know that I will be successful no matter what I do as long as I do something that I am passionate about. Having only completed my first year of college, I’m not exactly sure what my future holds. In five years, I would have graduated from UCLA would be working towards getting my MBA.

HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

SZ: “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another” –John Maxwell

HC: How would you describe yourself in five words?

SZ: Leader, fangirl, responsible, foodie, resourceful

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