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Behind Hurley’s Walk for Change

One year, you’re driving around to Hurley retailers to make sure the T-shirts are folded correctly, and the next (give or take a year) you’re heading up a major fashion show judged by the likes of Wilmer Valderrama and Bob Hurley (yes, the fashion company’s namesake).

And you’re barely two years out of college. Such is what happened with Jordan Dowty, part of Hurley’s marketing team for its YC (Young Contemporary) line and the one in charge of Walk the Walk, Hurley’s chance for aspiring fashion designers to win a big check—literally and figuratively—for their high school’s arts and music program.

Walk the Walk is an event sponsored by Hurley in which high school students are challenged to use fashions from the upcoming Hurley clothing line to create completely new designs. They’re given five weeks to plan their five minutes of free reign on the catwalk. The students combine live performances and original designs, hoping to win over a panel of judges—consisting of Hurley himself and other celebrities from the music and surf worlds—and receive the $5,000 prize. The money is donated to the school’s arts and music program to bolster these creative studies, which are usually nixed first when budgets are cut—or might not even have the necessary funding at all.

Story continues after the pictures from last weekend’s Walk the Walk West Coast Grand Championship …

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Dowty and her team try to pick schools with a wide range of students demographically, and a large student body that can participate. They also try to choose schools that generally don’t have this kind of opportunity or program.

“The school that won when we did the show in San Diego is an inner-city school that literally has gates that are locked 24-7—it’s not a school where the kids have opportunities a lot of times to really do anything extracurricular,” she says. “Even football and all the sports costs money, and this is something where we give all of the resources and they’re able to participate without anything out of pocket.”

Dowty, 23, is involved in the entire process: from choosing schools to participate and mentoring the students, to watching as the last design makes its way down the catwalk and the winner is announced.

“I’m in constant communication with the kids, where I’m checking up on their rehearsals and doing meetings with them,” she says. “When we do events in Southern California, we have the kids come visit our headquarters so they can see what it’s like to be in the real world, how things are run here.”

In addition to showcasing their creativity, the fashion shows help students interact with others they might not normally hang out with. “It’s really cool to see how different cliques in groups come together through the program and through the event,” Dowty says. “We interview the kids and without fail, every single time they say, ‘I never used to talk to this person’ or, ‘This person never talks in class.’ And they are full of great ideas. It’s really cool to see them connecting those dots as well.”

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Dowty believes that encouraging the students throughout the process is her most important task. “I tell [the students], ‘I’m not here to give you any rules or tell you what to do, but I am here to help you,’” she says. “And to be someone they know they can go to and get an honest opinion from, and give that encouraging word.”

She is also able to integrate her faith into her position. “I’m working with students in public schools, and there are a lot of rules and regulations about what you can and can’t say,” she says. “But I do get to know these kids on a personal level and I do get share with them my life and experience as a twentysomething working in an industry that they think is really cool.

“I’m able to talk about going to church, and the best part about it is that I can be encouraging to them and I can be myself, and be a light that they might not realize at the time, but they can see an example of someone who is in a really cool job who is looking out for them,” she continues. “The surf industry especially can be really corrupt and a big party industry, and it’s cool to be able to come to work and stand up for what I believe in, and share my faith with these kids who are in a time in their lives that’s going to be defining and character-building. It’s exciting to lead by example.”

Though she’s able to teach the students a lot, they’ve also taught her a thing or two. “I’ve always been a logical thinker, growing up and through school, but just within the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot from the kids and how they flourish when they’re able to think and act creatively,” she says. “That’s really helped me to think outside of the box when I’m working with them. … I think you work a lot better, even if you’re having to do the rudimentary ABC steps. When you’re thinking with a creative mind, it helps you not to get into a rut.”

 

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