Ericka Ellis (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

Ericka Ellis (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Many of us can thank our parents for teaching us how to take care of ourselves. But what should a child in foster care do? Ericka Ellis was a foster child herself, and now she is filling in the gaps for other North Texas teens.

Free clothes and jewelry in all colors and styles. It’s a dream for almost every young girl. But for Ellis and her girls, this dream is real, at least for one day. “They’ll get to keep all the clothes they want. It’s unlimited,” explained Ellis. “And they get to pick out an outfit that reflects them the most, and they get to walk the catwalk and wear it.”

Ellis is the founder of ‘Think. Love. Smart.’ The nonprofit provides life skills training to girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who are in foster care — coaching on things like personal hygiene, home economics, and college and career development. “A lot of people say we’re a product of where we’ve been, and I don’t think that’s true,” Ellis said. “We’re a product of what we think and what we want for our own lives.”

Ellis is living proof of that belief. Her mother was addicted to crack. “We were left outside, sleeping in front of the parks,” she said. Placed in foster care at 8 years old, Ellis lived with multiple families until one finally clicked. “The biggest thing they did was introduce God to me.”

Ellis went to college, got married, and is now a mother herself.

While the free fashion and beauty advice turns heads, the personal stories that Ellis shares with her girls is what transforms those teens the most. “They can open up and be themselves, and they don’t have to be ashamed,” Ellis said. “I want them to see, regardless of where they came from, people still love them. They are worthy of love and they can accomplish anything great. Nothing is too big for them.”

The donated clothes and accessories will be given away and modeled at the upcoming ‘Stride, Strive and Strut’ charity fashion show being held on November 9 in Dallas. The fundraiser helps girls at ‘Think. Love. Smart.’ build a wardrobe and build their confidence. Click here for more information.

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