TAMPA — For the last three years, Tampa Bay Tech High School has chosen a poster boy to don a decorated bra and grace the fliers for the school's annual Bras for a Cause fundraiser.
This year, senior Tajee Fullwood has the honor.
The poster features the 17-year-old posing in the gym holding a basketball and wearing a green T-shirt. Over the shirt he wears an orange bedazzled bra, the cups outlined to look like basketballs.
At the school last week, Fullwood slouched in his chair and nodded toward guidance counselor and event organizer Shelly Hollingsworth.
"Taking the pictures, they were laughing at me," he said, grinning. "But it's for a good cause so I had no problem being on the poster."
On Tuesday night, boys at Tampa Bay Tech, including Fullwood, will model bras decorated by the school's clubs and organizations to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Fullwood hopes to raise spirits, too, and reach those affected by cancer, "so they know that people do care," he said.
Bras for a Cause began in 2010 with 12 participants. Hollingsworth got the idea at a conference after hearing about similar fundraisers that have boys pay to wear a bra to school. That sounded a little too disruptive for a school with 2,000 students, so after a little research and tweaking, she settled on the one-night show idea.
The show raised $500 the first year. Then last year, with 18 models, it raised about $1,200, a tidy sum when you're relying solely on teachers and students. About 26 models are signed up this year.
Faculty members get in on the fun, too. Principal Michael Ippolito is modeling a bra decked out in camo and fishing hooks this year, designed by the front office staff to reflect his interest in hunting.
"The women from the front office convinced him," Hollingsworth said with a laugh. "Or bribed him, coerced him. I don't know what they had to do."
Alyssa Garcia, 17, first went to the show as a freshman. Now a junior, Garcia designed two bras, representing the junior class and the Christian Club. She liked the butterflies used in previous years' designs, so she incorporated some in her own designs this year.
"It's very time-consuming," she said. "You have to have a lot of creativity."
But it's worth it, she said, not just to raise funds, but to see the school come together.
The same cause has brought the school together before. Kay Nash was head of the math department when she died in 2010 after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. Her death shook the campus, Hollingsworth said.
The bench outside Nash's old classroom was painted pink in remembrance, and when the school participated in Relay for Life that year, they did so in her memory.
"She was a phenom on campus," Hollingsworth said. "That really thrust the school into a heightened awareness."
Bras for a Cause kicked off at the school that year, too.
"Having the health academy here really contributes. Half the population here is enrolled in health-related courses," said Hollingsworth, whose father is a two-time cancer survivor. "The students have even more respect for the research, for what people are going through, the humanitarian side and the health side."
At Tuesday's show, judges will pick the best bras in nine categories, and students will vote with money for their overall favorite the rest of the week in school. The final bra that raises the most money will win the Titan Choice Award.
"We're doing this funny, humorous thing, guys in bras," said Juan Nunez, 17. "But it's important to raise funds and raise awareness."
Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2453.