When an Arizona principal found out that students were skipping school because they were embarrassed they didn’t have clean clothes, he came up with a unique solution—he added a laundry room to the campus so students could wash their clothing.
Principal John Anderson explained that Maya High School “is an alternative high school” that “serve[s] a population that struggled in other school settings.”
“Over 30% of our students are categorized as homeless,” he said. “They may have slept in a park or slept on a friend’s floor or couch—on a nightly basis.”
Former Maya student Adreya De La Torre said that she relates to the feelings of embarrassment students have when they lack clean clothing.
“I relate to a lot of them,” Andreya said. “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.”
Principal Anderson says that he tried to solve the problem in a variety of ways, but the budget was tight. That’s when some big names stepped in to support the school’s initiative. The Leona Group, which manages the school, along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Fiesta Bowl donated all the money necessary.
Now, an old closet near the cafeteria serves as a laundry room. And it’s changing students’ lives.
“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,” say students Stephanie and Anntania.
“We make them believe in themselves and to want to do it for themselves. The laundry room has created a buzz. Students know that we put our money where our mouth is as far as Maya being a community and saying we are all in…These kids are survivors; they’re fighters.”