Lillian Kincey thought she would just be teaching students to sew. Little did she know that her after-school program would blossom into an opportunity to prepare Clarke County students for college and careers.
Kincey helped start the Young Designers Sewing Program in 2009 as a creative and inspiring space for girls in east Athens to learn the art of sewing. Young women in grades four through 12 meet twice a week at the sewing studio on Gaines School Road with Kincey and a team of sewing mentors.
“Our work with the girls goes far beyond teaching them to sew a hemstitch or a buttonhole stitch,” said Kincey. “We provide opportunities for them to learn other skills that will prepare them for the future, including etiquette, social skills, basic business principles and workplace readiness, among others.”
Last week, members of the Young Designers spent a day at the University of Georgia, where they learned not just about textiles and fashion entrepreneurship but also about career choices and college applications, and got a firsthand look at life as a college student.
Rosa Arroyo-Driggers, associate director of UGA Admissions, engaged the group in conversations about potential career paths, and the girls eagerly shared their goals—ranging from careers as pediatricians to graphic designers to musicians.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is having the opportunity to work with young people,” Arroyo-Driggers shared. “Helping local students discover classes and programs at UGA that match their passions is very rewarding. We hope to show them that the things they love most can become opportunities.”
The group interacted with Arch Society students as they visited the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. Students explored the textile laboratories, studying clothing from the early 1900s to present and getting hands-on experience with tools such as a handloom and 3D printer.
Throughout the visit, UGA students, faculty and staff encouraged the Young Designers to consider their passions, including their love of sewing and fashion design, as potential opportunities.
“Textiles can be found everywhere,” said Gajanan Bhat, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Fibers and Textiles and department head as he addressed the group. “Beyond fashion, we find textiles in bridges, in medical procedures, in construction projects—and we need people like you to consider all the ways textiles can impact our world. Your creativity can make a difference in facing future problems and finding solutions.”