About a year and a half ago, just before the pandemic hit the county, staff at Shafter High discovered a disturbing trend.
Teachers were coming to administration and counselors with concerns about some of their students. They said that there were students that were not coming to class on a regular basis, and there were also students who seemed to be struggling in class, as well as out of class. One teacher mentioned that a student was not coming to class because she didn't have enough clothes to wear, making it uncomfortable for her to attend on a daily basis.
Another example was a student who was missing class because he and his family didn't have a permanent address and were staying with friends or relatives, bouncing around to have a place to sleep.
As similar stories came to light, a group of teachers wanted to help get these students back on track, in the classroom and outside of it.
Katie Young took the reins of the problem and was determined to find a solution for the problem. Sabrina Macias, who is an intervention counselor at Shafter High School, said, "It all started with Katie. A group of us would sit and talk and voice a need to come up with a solution, but Katie is the one who got the ball rolling."
The group began the Pride Pantry. This program contains a variety of items that students might need, as small as a toothbrush or toothpaste, to a bag of food, or a sleeping bag or air mattress.
Thanks to the support from local businesses, individuals and clubs in Shafter, the Pride Pantry has been serving the students of Shafter High to make sure that they are able to attend school and be productive students.
"This program is amazing, letting us help our students who might otherwise fall through the cracks," said team member Haley Ishida.
It has become even more challenging with families losing their jobs or homes due to the pandemic.
"We have seen a rise in the need for everything from simple toiletries to clothes and blankets," said team member Amy Carlson.
With their pantry supplies growing, they were in need of a place to store the items. Lynnda Martin, of American Refuse, volunteered to give the team a cargo container to store the items in.
"This has been a blessing and just another example of people stepping up to help our students, making the General motto a reality," said Macias.
"It is amazing what a difference such blessings can make in a student's life," said Young.
The team core, made up of staff Macias, Young, Carlson, Kelly Borrego, and Ishida, are not hesitant to make house visits either, connecting with the students and their families, letting them know that they will do whatever it takes to help their students succeed.
As the popularity of the Pride Pantry has grown, the inventory has dwindled, so they are in need of supplies to regenerate their inventory. Anyone interested in contributing to this program can contact the high school. They are in need of everything from socks, underwear, men's clothing, belts, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, feminine products, snack food items, pillows and pillow cases. They also can use blankets, sleeping bags and air mattresses.