STOCKTON, Calif. — Cesar Chavez High School student Mariah Lopez has stuffed hundreds of bags with soap, shampoo and other hygiene products for homeless teens.
It’s all part of Mariah’s Closet, her initiative to have a designated space in schools where students in need have access to basic hygiene necessities.
“I want the students to know that they have that, like, other people care. A lot of people care and that we’re here to support them with basic needs of hygiene and sanitary needs,” Lopez said.
Two years ago, her family was homeless and sleeping out of their car, bouncing from house to house.
“Sometimes we had to get dressed, we had a storage. We got dressed at storage. And sometimes it wasn’t no showers, you know, those things that we needed,” Lopez’s mother, Jeannie Yang said.
Yang said having a Mariah’s Closet would have been a huge help to them during their time of need.
“When we think of homeless, we don’t think of schools. We don’t think of students that still have to go to school,” she said.
Lopez said she first got the idea from her school when they started a Titan’s Comfort Closet on campus this year.
After collecting hundreds of donations for her own school, she partnered with Stockton 209 Cares, a nonprofit organization, and expanded Mariah’s Closet to other high school campuses.
“We’re trying to get to every school to have some kind of hygiene stuff or products to have for anyone that, like, really needs them,” Lopez said.
They have collected mounds of hygiene products and other items to fill up hundreds of bags.
Venture Academy and Stagg High School opened their own closets earlier this year.
“We never imagined it to be as big as it’s gotten to be,” Yang said.
Now, the incoming junior has a new goal to help homeless students.
“To get to all the schools out here in Stockton,” she said.
Lopez is asking for more donations to help reach her goal of starting a hygiene closet in every school.