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Orange County-Based Presidents Talk Style and Sustainability

Get inspired by their leadership.

Samueli Academy Presidents Gina Buitron (pictured at left in center photo) and Ri Gomez are creating change in their community. The Santa Ana, California-based Presidents share their experiences leading their FIDM Fashion Club, as well as founding Opia Upcycling, a social entrepreneurship project for queer youth.

How did you learn about FIDM Fashion Club?

Gina: From our design teacher Ms. Vining. She was the one to encourage us to create the club.

Ri: Through the FIDM website. I was always very interested in attending FIDM as a young teen, so I was constantly perusing the website for scholarships, opportunities, and more.

What opportunities has FIDM Fashion Club allowed you to pursue?

Gina: Exploring my creativity in fashion and learning new techniques for sewing.

Ri: I registered as an official FIDM Fashion Club so we could have opportunities for our students to explore the campus and participate in FIDM events. It has given me more opportunities in fashion and leadership.

Is this the first time you have held a leadership role?

Ri: Gina had been in school leadership for most of her life, but I did not step into a leadership role before Opia. After I met Gina, she encouraged and pushed me to join school leadership as well. I am now a Co-President of Opia Upcycling, a leader in our school’s broadcasting station, the school D.J., and a publicity advisor in ASB. Opia Upcycling and Gina helped me grow as a leader and as a person. I would not be where I am now without them.

Tell us about also founding Opia Upcycling and your club’s recent participation at your school’s Firewolf Festival:

Gina: We came up with Opia Upcycling with the help of the Dragon Kim Foundation, which funds programs that they want to see in their community. Our school has helped us fundraise for materials for Opia like at the Firewolf Festival. We sold some projects our club members have made in our club.

Ri: Opia Upcycling started as a community project to bring queer youth in Santa Ana together over the summer. We have participated in charity fashion shows, swap meets, and have fundraiser money for our school through our designs. We are fundraising for an embroidery machine and we are almost at our goal.

What upcoming activities do you have planned?

Gina: One upcoming activity we have been planning is having summer workshops at our school to prepare for a fashion show where our club members can show off what they have made.

What is currently inspiring you in the fashion world?

Gina: Making upcycled clothing. I love upcycling because it lets me be very creative and turn an old piece of clothing into something that is in style.

Ri: We hope to create a healthier way to express ourselves without participating in the toxic ways the current fashion industry hurts our environment, which is why all materials that Opia Upcycling uses are secondhand or donated.

Learn more online at opiaupcycling.wixsite.com/pride and on Instagram @opiaupcycling.