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Pressing Tees, Raising Money
OJHS eighth grader TJ Verdegaal puts a transfer on a T-shirt to be pressed in the after school Oasis program with some supervision from OHS sophomore Nick Jones. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

A project to raise money by printing T-shirts is gaining steam in the Oasis after school program at Oakdale Junior High School.

Oasis program supervisor Micki Dias said they embarked on the program late in the last school year, did a lot of work over the summer, and offered T-shirts for sale during this year’s Round Up.

“This is replacing the fundraiser for magazine sales,” Dias said with some excitement in the new venture.

They are selling spirit wear T-shirts for about $15 and sweatshirts for around $30 and also PE wear. While not trying to take business away from other T-shirt printing companies, this Oasis program project fills a niche and puts money back into the school. For example, they are making T-shirts for the school’s volleyball team because some companies require minimum orders of 50 or more – significantly larger than the number of students on most sports teams.

“We’re able to print T-shirts (for them) at a lesser fee and with a quicker turnaround time,” said OJHS parent volunteer Roberta Hernandez.

She and fellow parent volunteer Maria Cobarruvias help run the T-shirt press project with help from Oakdale High School sophomore Nick Jones. In the Oasis program, students and staff design the shirts collaboratively using computer programs.

Going through a couple of different companies to supply the transfers, the Oasis group uploads their designs into the company’s software. Then they get a price quote from the company and the company prints and ships the transfers.

Dias said that the school administration and the district office have been supportive of the new undertaking, helping them with the special bookkeeping requirements.

She added that they can press shirts in a matter of minutes but it’s a learning process right now with ordering. The students are responsible for inventory, with oversight from the adults, and they also have to figure out their costs and for how much they need to sell the shirts or sweatshirts to make a profit for Oasis. Dias also said that the plan is to incorporate more students into the T-shirt project, but they have to meet some requirements due to the responsibilities involved – design, pressing, inventory, and sales.

“It’s going to be a business model… so they understand we don’t automatically get shirts and transfers. And, they work with the community,” Hernandez said. “It also gives the kids a real world skill to operate as a team.”

Dias said that the plan is to have the eighth graders learn and then to mentor the seventh graders in the program.

“It’s a mentor project. Nick (Jones) is teaching the eighth graders how to do these products,” Dias said, adding that he also developed inventory sheets.

Hernandez had some experience printing T-shirts and she and Cobarruvias had gotten some help in learning how to develop a T-shirt printing project when they visited a high school in Rio Linda that was running its own T-shirt printing program.

How the project got off the ground and came together was a lining up of circumstances. Dias reported that she and Cobarruvias had been talking last year about creating a T-shirt making project for the kids in Oasis.

“We thought it would be a creative project for them,” she said.

Coincidentally, at the same time, a junior high school student’s grandmother contacted Dias because the student’s great-grandmother, who had owned a silkscreen T-shirt shop in Tuolumne, passed away. There were a lot of supplies from the shop and the family wanted to donate the supplies with the thought of helping the after school program.

Within a week, Dias got the supplies from the silkscreen shop. After seeing how much there was and what was involved, it was realized that they couldn’t operate a silkscreen program. There were chemicals involved and it would’ve required special ventilation, a separate room to be built, a drain, and so on.

“After we saw the silkscreen stuff, we knew that was too much, with all the paints and stuff,” Hernandez said.

But the plan wasn’t thwarted by that obstacle.

Cobarruvias and Hernandez had contacted an account representative from a T-shirt press manufacturer – the same company that made the large, heavy, old heat press that had come out of the student’s great-grandmother’s silkscreen shop.

The representative told the two parent volunteers about the Rio Linda high school that had a successful T-shirt making program, then they went and learned some tips from that program’s leader.

Hernandez also had a friend who owned a silkscreen shop in San Jose. In exchange for the silkscreen paint, the shop owner gave the Oasis program T-shirts to get their program started.

The Oasis program purchased a new hot press and started making T-shirts.

“Nobody else we know is doing this,” Dias said.

She believes the program will continue to grow and they’ll no longer have to rely on trying to sell magazines to raise funds.

“We feel pretty confident in what we’re doing,” Hernandez added.