September 8, 2003

Polo Supports Philanthropy

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The most unlikely of Cornell grads just became a supermodel.

Carolyn Leuner ’02, a kindergarten teacher in the South Bronx, is to appear in Ralph Lauren’s new G.I.V.E. jeans ad campaign.

Polo Jeans began promoting its new line in August, featuring 21 young community activists in its advertisements. Leuner was one of those chosen, picked for her work at P.S. 31 with Teach for America.

The message of G.I.V.E. asks consumers to “get involved, volunteer, exceed,” according to the Polo Jeans website. A portion of all proceeds from the jeans will be given to an array of community, arts, health and education-based charities, in addition to a lump sum for those organizations associated with the models.

Nicole Caruso, an account executive at PMK/HBH, is in charge of the advertising campaign. Polo Ralph Lauren hired the public relations firm to target a young audience. With television commercials running on MTV and print advertisements featured in fashion magazines, the campaign is attempting to reach high school and college-age students.

“The whole point … is to get young people thinking about volunteering,” Caruso said. Most of the featured activists are in their 20’s, so Caruso believes the target audience can relate to these volunteers.

Leuner does not see herself as a model, but she could not pass up Polo’s offer to help Teach for America. “They’re endorsing me rather than me endorsing them,” Leuner said of the clothing company. Polo Jeans donated $10,000 to Teach for America for Leuner’s participation. Money will go to teacher training, curriculum development and classroom supplies that schools cannot otherwise afford.


Leuner decided to participate in the advertising campaign because it was “an effort to celebrate people who work to fix what they see isn’t right.”

Leuner, who graduated with a double major in English and government, became interested in civil rights and inequality studies after spending a semester at the Cornell-in-Washington program. An internship with the Department of Justice “sparked my passion and desire to change things for minorities,” Leuner said.

When Leuner’s two-year commitment with Teach for America ends, she plans on going to law school or teaching at an inner city charter school. She described her current institution as “a very hostile school” but sees her classroom as “a safe environment.”

“[I] really want to change the educational system as a whole,” she said.

The East Harlem School at Exodus House, a private school for minorities, is another organization to which funds from the G.I.V.E. jeans are being donated. Teacher Rebecca Schanberg, the first G.I.V.E. model featured, appeared in the August issue of Glamour. Philippa Zainoeddin, director of development at the school, said that Ralph Lauren has a “fantastic relationship” with the East Harlem School and the other beneficiaries of G.I.V.E.

Zainoeddin said that Polo allows its employees to “find a passion and pursue it in their work time” by getting involved and not just by writing annual checks.

There are 39 charities that will benefit from G.I.V.E. jeans. The organizations for which the featured activists work will get five percent of the net proceeds; another five percent will be divided among the other charities.

Consumers can vote online at for which organization they want their money to help. In addition to Teach for America and the East Harlem School, proceeds will also go to Action Without Borders, a large umbrella organization which connects over 30,000 charities; Rock the Vote, a youth-focused political awareness group and Gilda’s Club, a cancer support group.

Archived article by Melissa Korn