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Industrial Profile 10/31/2017

Tilly Levine on the Tilly's Life Center


Tilly’s Life Center’s mission is to “to inspire today’s youth to reach their full potential as productive, kind, happy and responsible individuals” and participants complete a program. Tilly Levine, co-founder of the incredibly successful retail business, Tilly’s found a way to give back to the community, help young people achieve, and create a lasting legacy. It’s a program that enables and we’re about to learn all about it.

What is the curriculum to complete this program and how long does it take?

Tilly’s Life Center (TLC) facilitates a program called “I Am Me,” that is taught in public and private schools and as workshops through other charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Operation Progress, Central Juvenile Hall and the Youth Center on Highland. TLC’s classes are typically held once a week for 90 minutes and the full program takes one academic school year to complete. TLC’s classes teach life skills that build confidence, inspire compassion and encourage teens to pursue their dreams and covers relevant topics such as: forgiveness, body-Image, drugs and alcohol, bullying, stress and more. Our classes are not lectures but rather each lesson is taught through journal writing and also includes an activity to facilitate understanding through experiential learning and self-discovery.

TLC also has a program called "I Am Healthy" that runs in hospitals such as CHOC Children’s to help teens deal with physical illness. The "I Am Healthy" program is a combination of classes from all three phases of "I Am Me" with an emphasis on health.

Christian Ford Performs a Comedy & Magic Show at the most recent TLC fundraiser.

Can you share a “then and now” story of someone who came into the program when TLC was founded?

Ralph Rangel was a part of TLC’s “I Am Healthy” pilot program at CHOC back in 2012. During college, Ralph was diagnosed with AML Leukemia and was in the hospital to receive a bone marrow transplant when he learned about TLC. Ralph’s social worker asked him if he’d be interested in taking classes with TLC and he figured he had nothing to lose. Ralph completed our “I Am Healthy” program and with the support of TLC, he learned that he’s not defined by his illness and he can regain control of his life and achieve the goals he had prior to Leukemia. Today, Ralph is a co-facilitator at TLC’s CHOC workshop teaching teens about the power of positivity and forgiveness while battling a physical illness. As a two-time cancer patient and former TLC student, Ralph knows what it’s like to be in their shoes and can relate to the teens and help them overcome their fears.

How do participants find out about the program, apply, and become accepted?

TLC is in high schools, after school programs and works with third party partners in Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles. Students and teens can request to get TLC in their high school through their guidance counselors.

Do any applicants get turned down? If so, why?

We have yet to turn down any high school, 3rd party partner or after school program.

Why did you choose teen empowerment for the focus of TLC? Is it something you experienced yourself or saw along the way while building Tillys?

At Tillys, we have always been involved in giving back to the local community. Through Tillys Annual Charity Golf Tournament, we raised a great deal of money over the years to benefit local organizations such as: Boys and Girls Town, Boys & Girls Club, Casa Youth Shelter and Big Brothers Big Sisters. For many years, Tillys has donated funds and our time to help disadvantaged children and teens in Southern California. In 2005, Tillys founded two Tillys Baby Homes in Trabuco Canyon to help maintain family unity for newborns and infants who were removed from their homes. We followed the progress of the children and teens we had helped over the years and saw them, unfortunately often return to the negative lifestyle that led them there in the first place. We wanted to do more than provide food and shelter; we wanted to help create lasting change in the lives of young people. Recognizing a need to teach teen’s effective life tools and skills that build confidence, inspire compassion and encourage a positive mindset, Tilly’s Life Center was founded in 2012.

Does the program have national reach?

We currently facilitate our “I Am Me” after school program in ten high schools in Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles and as a workshop series through other charities in Southern California. TLC has also partnered with the University of California, Irvine to offer students in the School of Education the opportunity to join TLC’s facilitator internship program for college credit. Our goal is to expand the reach of our program to benefit the lives of teens across Southern California and beyond.

Supporter Steve Van Doren with Tilly Levine

Does it or can it have a presence everywhere Tillys retail stores exist?

Yes, that is our ultimate goal as Tillys retail is a huge supporter of TLC! We often hear from Tillys employees across the nation that they look forward to a TLC program in their area.

Where do you want TLC to be in the future?

My dream is to see the TLC program adopted as a part of required curriculum throughout California. We want to give all teens the opportunity to learn effective life tools that help build the confidence and self-esteem they need to take responsibility for themselves – ultimately we want to give teens the power to make positive changes in their own lives.