In the back of a strip mall in Phoenix, AZ, an abandoned movie theater has been turned into an alternative high school � but the students inside the school haven�t been forgotten. The school�s principal, John Anderson, is making sure of that.
Most of the students who attend Maya High School are struggling. Over 30% are categorized as homeless and most have had problems in more traditional school settings. While the fact that many students don�t have a secure place to sleep is certainly an issue, Anderson (pictured below) has noticed a new problem. Students aren�t coming to school because they don�t have clean clothes to wear.
“I relate to a lot of them,” former Maya student Andreya De La Torre told azfamily.com. “I come from a homeless background, sleeping in abandoned buildings, having no clothes, washing the same pair of clothes every single day. … But coming to school smelling, kids don�t want to be by you. They are talking about you. And it�s just really hard to focus on your education when you are focused on your self-esteem.�
To help with the problem, Anderson reached out to several organizations in the area who provided grant money to build a student access laundry room at the school. Now, students can visit �The Missing Sock� when they need to wash their clothes, and Anderson says it�s quickly becoming the new spot for students to hang out between classes.
Maya seniors Stephanie and Anntania said the laundromat (converted from a utility closet) is already making a difference for their classmates.
“I would say it builds up their self-esteem quite a lot because they would talk with someone and say, ‘I don�t have a laundry at home. Can I bring some here?’ Instead of worrying about someone talking about you because you smell bad and you don�t have to ask someone to borrow clothes you can just wash them here.�
Anderson, who was inspired to take on the project when one of his students kept showing up despite not having clean clothes, says it�s just the first step to making sure the students at Maya are set up to succeed. He recently received a grant of $5,000 from the Arizona Diamondbacks to go toward building showers for the school.
“We�re going to take on any challenge and we�re not going to make any excuses together as a community,” he said.
“I don�t look at it as a handout. It�s a hand up. These kids are survivors; they�re fighters.� – John Anderson
If you�re in Arizona and would like to become a partner or affiliate with Maya High School, you can do so by visiting the school�s website. You can also make an individual donation to support extracurricular activities at the school.
Also, if this is something that could benefit a school in your community, don’t hesitate to bring it up with school administration and board officials. There are many groups out there that are willing to help.
Let�s #StartSomethingGood together.
(Source: images CBS5-TV)