High School's Anonymous Pantry Offers Discreet Access to Necessities

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Being a teenager is tough enough without having to worry where your next meal is coming from. At Washington High School in Washington, North Carolina, students are able to access an in-house pantry stocked with basic resources, away from the prying eyes of their peers.

In 2015, the high school's student government proposed launching a hygiene closet and food pantry, which received support from former principal Misty Walker. The school partnered with Bright Futures, an organization dedicated to helping schools in the community, to bring the concept to life. Today, the pantry stocks basic items like toiletries, food, clothing, and school supplies provided by local donors.

If students ever wish to use the service, all they need to do is confide in a teacher, counselor, or administrator. They will then be taken by a staff member to one of the school’s pantries where they can shop in a private setting free from stigma. Because the program is anonymous, there are no flyers hung up advertising the pantry. Instead, the administration relies on word of mouth to spread the news.

"We decided to run the pantry simply by word of mouth to eliminate any barriers to students," Washington High School teacher and former student government advisor Laura Thompson tells Mental Floss. "Students nor their families are asked to complete any documentation when using the service."

Washington High School's assistant vice principal Melissa Harris has since taken the lead on the project, and she tells Mental Floss that today it's stronger than ever. "The food pantry is being replenished by partners and student organizations," she says. "Our carpentry kids are also participating in the overhaul and design of the new space. The toiletry closet and clothes closet are in constant use and our partners are assisting in keeping that replenished and it has been a blessing to our students."

Some high schools across the country have followed Washington's lead in recent years. William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, and Northridge High School in Layton, Utah, are just a few of the institutions with similar programs.

But Washington High remains ahead of the curve. In preparation for the holidays, the school is hosting food drives for its December backpack program: The plan is to send students home with backpacks filled with two weeks' worth of supplies to get them through the long break.

The University of Texas at San Antonio Is Offering Free Tuition to Thousands of Students

Prostock-Studio/iStock via Getty Images
Prostock-Studio/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a resident of Texas with college ambitions but face some financial hardship, there’s good news coming out of the University of Texas at San Antonio. This week, the school announced a program called Bold Promise, which will cover tuition for thousands of students annually.

To be eligible, enrollees must be first-time freshmen living in the state, ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school class, and have graduated less than 16 months prior. Once enrolled, they must maintain a 2.5 grade point average each semester. The adjusted gross income of their family cannot exceed $50,500.

UTSA is currently ranked 293 to 381 by U.S. News and World Report in national universities. The school hosts roughly 32,264 students, with an average annual tuition of $9722 for Texans and $24,722 for out-of-state attendees. The acceptance rate is roughly 79 percent.

Incoming students have until January 15 to submit an application, but no separate Bold Promise form is required. The program officially begins with the fall 2020 semester and will cover four years of education. UTSA says the cost will be covered by scholarships, grants, and other exemptions on the state and federal levels. Students will also have the chance to apply for financial aid to cover boarding expenses. UTSA estimates 4000 students will be eligible for the program.

The University of Texas-Austin instituted a similar offer earlier this year, with free tuition for a four-year program offered to students with household incomes of $65,000 or less. Colleges in Michigan and New York have also implemented tuition programs.

[h/t KSAT]

Phoenix High School Builds Laundry Room to Assist Underprivileged Students

harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images
harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images

At Maya High School in Phoenix, Arizona, a large closet off the cafeteria has been converted into a laundry room called “The Missing Sock,” complete with a washing machine, a dryer, and even laundry detergent—no quarters or cards needed.

According to AZFamily, principal John Anderson came up with the idea after realizing that many of the school’s students—more than 30 percent of whom are homeless—were reluctant to even show up for school simply because they didn’t have a way to wash their clothes. After talking to one student in particular, who explained that his family wasn’t providing him with the basic resources he needed in order to succeed in school, Anderson decided it was time for the school itself to step up.

So, with the help of grants from the Leona Group, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Fiesta Bowl, Anderson and his colleagues built their own miniature laundromat, much like West Side High School in New Jersey did last year. If similar endeavors elsewhere are any indication, Maya High School could see a pretty significant quantitative impact on attendance: Schools that received appliances from Whirlpool as part of their Care Counts program, for example, saw a two-day rise in attendance rates for chronically absent students and a staggering increase in class participation.

“I come from a homeless background,” Maya High School special projects coordinator (and graduate) Andreya De La Torre told AZFamily. “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.”

In addition to giving underprivileged kids easy access to clean clothes, “The Missing Sock” is also a symbol of Maya’s commitment to providing its students with more than just academic skills.

“We offer them life skills to teach them things that someone is probably not teaching them on the outside … and to show them love,” De La Torre explained to AZFamily.

“We make them believe in themselves and want to do it for themselves,” Anderson added.

And it doesn’t stop at the laundry room—Maya High School just earned another grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which Anderson will use to install showers in the school, too.

[h/t AZFamily]

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