Student helps girls in need with mobile "chic" boutique

Like many Americans this time of year, Allyson Ahlstrom is on a road trip. Her goal isn't just to see the country -- it's to change it -- one free outfit at a time.

The twenty-year-old is actually wrapping up her third annual cross country tour while putting new clothes on as many girls in need as she can find.

At each of the six stops, she calls ahead to recruit girls for the next city on her itinerary. "We're going to be in Nashville on Friday and I was wondering if you had any girls age 11 to 21 that may be in need of some clothes?"

The tour is a family affair. She's joined by her mother, Amy, her sister, Anika, and her mother's father, Gus StMarie. Crammed into a large truck and pulling a 60-foot trailer, they began their travels in Los Angeles on August 8th, and after stops in Las Vegas and Phoenix, pulled the mobile "chic" boutique into the border town of El Paso, Texas.

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Allyson Ahlstrom has spent the last month taking her mobile boutique on the road, giving clothes to disadvantaged girls. Courtesy of Allyson Ahlstrom

The clothes were donated by corporate sponsors, including rue21. The customers? Ninety girls from the state Child Protective Services and Juvenile Probation Department. Some were abused or neglected. Others got in trouble with the law.

Not all of the girls were from El Paso. Those from Lubbock and Amarillo were flown in with chaperones. Others were from Midland, Odessa, Abilene and Wichita. Some were ordered to attend by a judge.

"When you feel good in what you wear, that's going to project into your everyday outlook on life," said Ahlstrom as she addressed the teens. "You are going to feel more confident, you are going to feel more powerful. Because you are confident and powerful people but sometimes it takes some tools to bring that out. And that's why we are here today."

Ahlstrom was joined on a panel discussion focusing on woman empowerment by Jeannie Stringfeld, who owns Fetch Clothing in town, Leslie Neikirk, an ICU nurse, and therapist, Celeste Nevarez.

CBS News was required to protect the identity of most of the participants, but given permission to follow a handful around. Fourteen-year-old Daija had gotten into trouble at home and at school earlier this year, and was referred by her counselor to attend.

The El Paso native says she was inspired by the stories, "hearing everybody talking about their experiences....empowerment with women and everything. "

The teens also heard from Joyce Schwarz, a motivational speaker and founder of Vision Board Institute, shown inspirational videos, and given a workshop on hair and make-up. The most anticipated part of the day was when they got to go shopping.

"I've never heard of this program before and I'm glad to actually experience it," says Daija.

Ahlstrom came up with the idea of launching her non-profit when she was 14 years old. "I struggled to fit in at my high school and one of the things that really helped me was fashion and sewing and drawing and sketching," say Ahlstrom. "I didn't grow up in foster care, but I had a young friend in foster care growing up and seeing her struggles is something that has always been on my mind."

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Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds have benefited from Ahlstrom's efforts. Allyson Ahlstrom

She opened her first "Threads for Teens" boutique back home in Santa Rosa, California in 2010. "One year when I was 12 or 13, I donated all my gifts to a foster home and so I wouldn't say I am the most qualified person out there, but at least I am out there doing something."

In 2014, she was profiled in Moroccanoil's "Inspired By Women" series directed by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Daija found the experience to be uplifting. "My self-esteem hasn't always been as good as it should but after this experience, I feel a lot better about myself."

For Ahlstrom, it's all about "being treated like a teenage girl should be treated with respect, love, and dignity."

This fall, Ahlstrom plans to open more shops in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and London -- all while continuing her studies at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.