Like most 13-year-old girls, Erica Purcell is heading straight to the store for some serious back-to-school shopping this summer. Unlike most 13-year-old girls, Purcell doesn't weave in and out of shops at the mall or order expensive clothing online. Instead, she gets thrifty and hunts for deals at local Goodwill stores. And her parents are grateful.

"She's not the type to keep the same blouse for three years, so shopping at Goodwill saves us a tremendous amount of money," said Teresa Purcell, Erica's mother.

To prove back-to-school shopping doesn't have to break the bank, Keri Funkhouser, marketing and communications manager for Goodwill, challenged five kids and the parents, including the Purcells, to put together trendy and affordable outfits for the upcoming school year. The kids and their parents found most of their clothing, shoes and accessories at area Goodwill stores, and most created mix-and-match outfits to fit an array of school-year activities, from recess to class parties to everyday routines.

Each participant was eager to show off their finds and share shopping tips with fellow kids and parents.

"I figure this way I can wear name brands and get more clothes for a better price," said Isaiah Maestas, 12. "You have to dig, but when you find a brand you've been looking for, it's exciting."

Erica has bargain hunting down to a science, and it usually includes a trip to the Goodwill retail store located at 2007 South Circle Drive, specifically to check out the store's teen clothing corner, Threads.

"I love it because I always find something different there, so my outfits are really unique," she said.

Harlan Hobson, store manager at the Goodwill Circle retail center, explained that Threads is more than just a section of trendy clothing - it's a program designed to help teens gain work experience and education. Through the Harrison School District, high school students can apply for the program, and up to six teens can be involved at a time. Each participant in the Threads program at the Goodwill Circle store work part time during the one-year internship, learning customer service and retail skills. Since the program started in 2009, many teens have gone on to continue their education. Several have been hired as full-time staff while they work to earn college degrees.

"If it wasn't for this job, I probably wouldn't even have a job right now, and everyone here has persuaded me so much to go to school, to go after my dream," said Emma Bollinger, 18. Bollinger is taking classes at Pikes Peak Community College and is working toward a nursing degree.

Goodwill seeks to be a part of the community, whether it be providing jobs or dressing your family in time for fall classes. Visit a retail location for your school shopping, and ask about daily sales. If you're lucky, maybe you'll bump into one of our featured shoppers and they can share their tricks of the back-to-school bargain trade.