There are plenty of things the average high school student would want to think about before college. And although being the smartest kid in class may not give kids much of a cool factor, it is required to pursue a higher education.
Julian Gunder, 28, wanted to flip this mindset of high school students by making ambition fashionable. In 2011, he created the ILoveCollege clothing company for kids ages 13 to 19 to get them excited about their future educations.
“Nerds are the ones that are, I don’t want to say running the country, but essentially, they are the ones that are these tech and digital leaders — and what not — that are successful,” Gunder told BET.com. “I want to encourage kids to be nerds and I want it to be seen as cool to study and do well in school and get good grades and go to college.”
The line features a range of T-shirts and bookbags with banners of success such as “Future Billionaire,” “I Love College,” “Get Smarter Please,” “College Girl” and “Scholarship Swag.”
Getting kids college-ready is very important in today’s labor environment, as continuing education benefits a person's chances of getting a job.
The unemployment rate for workers over the age of 25 who have less than a high school diploma was 11 percent. The unemployment rate for workers of the same age with a high school diploma was 7.5 percent. Meanwhile, the jobless rate for those with an associate and bachelor's degree is 5.4 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.
Gunder, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in San Diego and went on to attend Howard University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in marketing. He said a childhood friend, who he watched go from being an A-plus student to being involved with gang culture, inspired him to start the line.
“I feel like my friend, and a lot of other friends like him, if they had saw college as a great place to go, if they saw it as a fun place to be, they potentially would have stayed on track, taken the SATs and gone to a great school. It was probably something that was never discussed at home,” Gunder said.
As a mentor for youth in lower income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, Gunder has been able to get the message out about his clothing line to the youth who really need it.
“Parents and teachers and school officials love the idea because they see how much their kids were influenced by fashion and music. I use those venues to get it out there,” he told BET.com.
Gunder, a former advertising professional, created ILoveCollege as a part-time hustle. It is now a full-time company. Moving forward, ILoveCollege will be an entertainment company that plans activities for high school students and campus tours for students in New York, Pennyslvania and New Jersey.
“There are a lot of brands out there that make cool, trendy things, but this is a brand that I want to last," said Gunder. "I really want the message to be something that can last in the community."
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(Photo: ILove College Clothing Company)