‘Be the Change’ motto reflected in East High program to help homeless students

Mar 8, 2018, 3:56 PM | Updated: 11:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – It all started with a conversation with a student who told the East High School principal she was sleeping behind a grocery store.

That conversation lead to the creation of a very special program to help the approximately 80 homeless students who attend the school, and a year after it started, the program has helped more people than they ever thought they would.

“Whether they are part of the homeless community or underprivileged, everyone is welcome here, and we’re all united as East High students,” said Ainu Kaufusi, East High School senior and student body officer.

A year ago, community donations enabled students set up showers and a washer and dryer in the school basement under the gym. The Leopard Stash was also created. It’s a food pantry that provides healthy snacks and groceries for students and their families. The Leopard Boutique is a place where students and families can find new and gently used clothing, shoes and jackets.

“We want people to feel welcome and feel loved,” Kaufusi said.

She said, it’s important to make students feel included in the student body, especially at a time in life when it’s easy to feel harshly judged by their peers.

Everything is provided free of charge to the students and supported through in-kind gifts and cash donations from students, families, PTA and community members. Donations are accepted at the front of the school every Wednesday from 2:45pm to 3:15pm.

“They have a lot of burdens that I think a lot of students can’t really imagine what they’re going through,” Senior Matt Simmons said. “So the more that we can do as a school to lift those burdens, the better. “

Simmons, who is also a student body officer said the area for the washrooms, Leopard Stash and Leopard Boutique used to be gloomy, very dark and uninviting, but that all changed recently. This week, artist Matt Chew and East High students finished up the mural at the entry in the school basement.

“We’re trying to create a community,” Simmons said.

The school motto this year is “Be the Change.”

“Putting emphasis on the community that needs to use these washrooms was something that we thought was really important in incorporating all of the students into this community that we’re creating,” Simmons said.

Sixty to 70 students and about a dozen families regularly use the facility.

“We certainly are getting more use than what we imagined 12 months ago,” said school Principal Greg Maughan. “It’s bigger and better than I imaged it would have been.”

Other schools and school districts in Utah and from across the country have contacted him to ask how they could incorporate the program in their schools.

“The first piece of information that I gave those people that would contact me was to build some sort of relationship of trust with some students and ask them what your school needs because this is what East needs, it doesn’t mean you need it. It’s what we need. And you may find that you don’t need the same thing.”

The project spearheaded by the family support coordinator at the school is a success thanks to the community.

“It’s been a very humbling experience to be able to see how our community, how our school comes together to support others in need,” Maughan said.

Washrooms at East High School. Leopard Boutique Ainu Kaufusi and Matt Simmons worked on the project.
KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Utah's Hogle Zoo. (KSL TV)...
Madison Swenson

Hogle Zoo offering Wild Weekdays discount in December

Utah's Hogle Zoo is offering guests $5 general admission every weekday for the month of December.
11 hours ago
(Courtesy: Baron Edwards)...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Witness recounts ‘miraculous’ Moab rescue after BASE jumper crashes into cliff

Incredible video shows the terrifying moments a BASE jumper crashed into a cliff in Moab, then hung in the air high above the ground, his parachute stuck in the cliffside.
11 hours ago
(John Wilson/KSL TV)...
Josh Ellis

SB I-15 closed in Layton following police chase, shooting

State troopers have closed southbound Interstate 15 at Hill Field Road due to a police incident.
11 hours ago
Follow @KSL_AlexCabrero...
Alex Cabrero

SportClips in Sugar House reopens after massive apartment fire

SportClips in Sugar House reopened for business Tuesday, 33 days after they were forced to close due to a massive fire that broke out at an under-construction apartment complex.
1 day ago
Charges against Linda Tracy Gillman were dismissed after the state was not ready to move forward wi...
Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Charges dropped for 75-year-old woman accused of hiring hit man

Linda Tracy Gillman is already in prison after being convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill her ex-husband and was scheduled to be on trial for attempting to hire another person, to eliminate evidence and a witness in that case.
1 day ago
Jed Boal

Plow drivers needed, but UDOT says the storm itself was the source of delay

Was it staffing issues or the storm itself at the source of traffic troubles Monday night and Tuesday morning across the Wasatch Front?
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
‘Be the Change’ motto reflected in East High program to help homeless students