|Teen promotes African jewelry as prom wear|
Donning a beaded necklace, Francie Fisher pins a flower on her prom date with a glass-bead stickpin. The jewelry was made by Ethiopian children she met during a mission trip to Africa last year. A UMNS photo by Jamey Tucker.
By Jamey Tucker
May 1, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
High school senior Francie Fisher is hoping to convince students around the country to start a new tradition at their senior prom.
During her mission trip to Africa last year, Fisher visits with Ethiopian children making glass beads. A UMNS photo courtesy of Francie Fisher.
Instead of flower corsages, Fisher wants them to buy heart-shaped beads made out of glass by Ethiopian teens. Memories of their big night would not only last in the form of beautiful jewelry, but include the knowledge they helped provide food and education for needy children.
"How awesome," she says, "You're paying $25, which is probably cheaper than a flower anyway and you keep it. You don't lose it by the end of the night or press it and keep it for what, 30 days. It's more special," Fisher said.
Fisher, who is a member of West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., said she became convinced that this idea could become a new tradition after seeing Ethiopian girls making the jewelry while on a mission trip to Africa last year. The teenagers work as part of a ministry called "Project Mercy" in the Yetebon region of Ethiopia. Fisher said.
The teenagers, mostly girls, make bracelets, necklaces and earrings in a little room.
“When I walked into the bead room for the first time, I just broke down and started crying; not out of sadness but out of so much joy." Fisher said.
The joy inspired her to bring their work back home. She ordered hundreds of the beaded necklaces and stickpins in a variety of colors. Ensworth School officials allowed her to set up a table during breaks where she sold the jewelry for $25 each.
Each bead is created using a blow torch and colored glass rods.
"I designed it so that girls would buy the stickpins for the guys as an alternative to buying a flower, and the necklaces are for the girls to wear instead of corsages on their wrists," she said.
During one break at school, three high school juniors stood looking at the colorful necklaces and stickpins. "I'm wearing a navy dress, what color should I buy my date" one girl asked Fisher. "A solid red would look nice" she said.
But the humanitarian effort isn't lost in the talk about fashion and style. Fisher explains to each student where the proceeds are going, and the inspiration she found with each Ethiopian teenager.
"We've sold so much", Fisher told one student buying a stickpin, "I've made $3,200 to send back."
Helping others comes as a natural outpouring of her faith in Christ and her United Methodist Church youth group, Fisher said.
"The biggest inspiration to me was these young kids," she said. “So what I'm trying to do is to be the inspiration to everyone else who wasn't able to see what I saw.”
Fisher said with each sale, she thinks of those teenagers. Each $25 purchase goes directly to Project Mercy and "pays for a child's food, education, teacher's salary and uniform for an entire month" she said.
On prom night, her efforts paid off. At a home where nearly two dozen couples gathered for pictures before dinner, about a third of the students were wearing either a glass-beaded heart stickpin or necklace. Many of the young men used the colorful stickpins to hold their boutonniere in place on their lapel. Girls wore their necklaces either around their neck or on their arm.
Ensworth students bought more than $3,000 worth of jewelry. A UMNS photo by Jamey Tucker.
Andrew Colton, a senior at Ensworth, purchased one of the small multi-colored beaded necklaces for his prom date. "When I first thought about buying beads instead of flower corsages for prom, I thought it sounded fun because it was something new and out of the ordinary,” he said. "I knew it would help the ministry in Africa and I knew my date would want one."
As photographs were being taken, Fisher walked through the crowd looking at all of the jewelry and remembered the teenagers in the small bead room in Africa.
"I think about them every day" she said. "The background on my computer is always a picture of an Ethiopian child or me with them. I just can't fathom what all goes on there. It's just ... seeing every one of these glass beads, they're all different. And they're all coming from these girls who are so gorgeous on the inside and out and are just so smart and beautiful. It's amazing."
*Tucker is a freelance producer and writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5472 or email@example.com.
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