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Sisters spearhead effort to help homeless teens

Sisters Savannah and Siena Prenger have taken it upon themselves to help homeless teens in the Las Vegas Valley.

They started small, donating 20 gift baskets to graduating seniors at Rancho High School, 1900 E. Searles Ave. They want to start a nonprofit organization, Teens Helping Teens, which could become self-sustaining even after they graduate from high school.

There are about 6,800 homeless students in the Clark County School District, according to Angela Urquiaga, Rancho’s registrar and advocate for its homeless youths. Rancho has about 130 homeless students and 400 more living in poverty.

Centennial Hills-area residents, the Prenger sisters have long done charitable work with their parents. Both girls are in the National Charity League with their mom.

“My whole life we’ve done this charity work,” Savannah Prenger, 17, said. “My parents’ sisters and brothers still to this day go in and out of homelessness, so it hits very close to us.

“We know how hard it is when you are homeless to graduate and get through it. The fact that 20 (students) did, we wanted to do something for them.”

A senior-to-be at Bishop Gorman High School, 5959 S. Hualapai Way, Savannah Prenger was introduced to the homeless situation at Rancho when her cheer squad fundraised 150 gift cards last December.

“I didn’t realized how many (homeless students) there were,” she said. “… It’s not their fault. They didn’t lose their job or mess up on anything. They had no chance.

“We were like, ‘OK, we have to get involved.’”

Along with her sister Siena, 13, an eighth-grader-to-be at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School, 1807 Pueblo Vista Drive, Savannah Prenger contacted Urquiaga and asked how they could help.

“I’ve always loved helping,” Siena Prenger said. “We’ve always done it since we were little. We’ve enjoyed it, though.”

They created a website during spring break, collected items for their gift baskets and bought some items they could not get donated. When the girls brought the baskets to Urquiaga on May 30, Urquiaga cried. She does that a lot.

“I cry very easily,” she said.

The boys’ baskets included cologne, a nice pen, socks, a picture frame, a gift card, a water bottle, a cupcake and sunglasses. The girls’ included many of the same items, along with nail polish, a necklace, earrings and candy.

“You give them a pen, deodorant, a toothbrush, (and) they thank you as if it’s a million dollars,” Urquiaga said. “But they need it. We take for granted the things they need.”

She told the Prenger family stories about some of her student successes, including past homeless students who earned full scholarships to universities. Urquiaga calls all of them her “babies,” but even she can do only so much.

“I can’t save them all,” she said. “I try, but some give up.”

Urquiaga, after hugging the girls about a dozen times, told them how much she appreciated the gift baskets.

“This is beautiful what you’re doing. You have no idea,” Urquiaga said to the sisters. “Or maybe you do.”

Savannah Prenger said she hopes to spread the nonprofit when she goes to college in the fall of 2014, and Siena plans to keep it going in Las Vegas.

Their website, teens-helping-teens.com, has a list of needed items. They also can accept donations through PayPal. Anyone interested in donating items can contact them on the website.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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