Allyson Ahlstrom, a slight, curly-haired incoming sophomore with a penchant for designer labels, thinks big.
The 15-year-old Ursuline student stood Wednesday at the grand opening of Threads for Teens, a boutique filled with new, donated designer clothes for teen girls who don't have the allowances or family support to go back-to-school shopping.
"It's a self-esteem booster," Allyson said, explaining why it's important for young people to dress well. "Bullying can happen if someone is dressed differently, so I wanted to stop it in my own small way."
The store is open by appointment only so Allyson can make sure she has items in each girl's size. She works with programs that serve at-risk youth, and asks them to select girls to participate.
For its debut, Allyson invited a dozen teen girls to peruse clothing in the Windsor storefront, all of whom are involved in CASA, a court-appointed special advocate program for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Each teen had a private appointment and could pick two full outfits, including purses, sunglasses and belts, as well as a formal dress and shoes to match.
A shy 16-year-old girl came up to the counter with a flowing blue top, black high-tops and a white purse.
Allyson's mother, Amy Ahlstrom, packed the items into a shopping bag while Allyson checked the items off a spreadsheet listing 150 tops, 150 jeans, 33 necklaces, 11 pairs of sunglasses, 50-plus purses and other items donated to the cause.
The girls also received makeup, a backpack full of school supplies and a coupon for a haircut.
"It's so from her heart," said Lisa Ormond, co-director of admissions at Ursuline, who came to the store for its debut. "She really wants to do good."