Las Americas Middle School offers refugee students an education, clothing and hope

What once used to be a classroom is now fully stocked with racks of sweaters, shirts and even some coats.  There are also full-length mirrors on the wall, adjacent to the closets that are now being used as fitting rooms.  Hanging from coat racks, you’ll also find a variety of scarves, purses and hats. 

 This is the ‘Closet of Hope’ at Las Americas Middle School, a little shop set up by the principal and teachers to provide their students and parents with a place on campus to shop for clothing at no cost at all. 

Where: Las Americas Middle School
What: Donated clothing provides a place to shop for parents and students, free of charge.
More info: Call 713-773-5300.

 “A lot of our students come to us with little or no clothing,” said Principal Marie Moreno.  Las Americas serves newcomer and refugee families, so many of them have only been in the country for a couple of months.  “They may have two or three pairs of clothes, but that is it.”

The Closet of Hope started less than a year ago with donations from the teachers and the principal, when they saw that many of these students didn’t have proper clothing to wear to school on a daily basis.

“It’s just something we felt we needed to do for our students,” said Raquel Sosa-Gonzalez, a teacher at Las Americas.  “Now we are able to give the families clothes and an education.”

Sosa-Gonzalez said she had some students come to her class in bathrobes because they didn’t own any coats to keep them warm during the chilly weather.  And there was one incident in particular, recalled the teacher, that impacted the entire staff and prompted them to take immediate action to help their students.

“I remember a group of students all sitting around a student in my class,” said Sosa-Gonzalez.  “I went over to see what was going on. At that point, the student took off her shoes and her feet were bleeding.  Her shoes were two sizes too small for her.”

Since then, things have changed at Las Americas.  Today, students have a variety of coats and sweaters to choose from to keep them warm during the winter months and plenty of shoes, too, for daily use. 

The doors of the Closet of Hope are open to all the students and their families.  Many of the families come to pick out clothes to wear to school, to work, to church or special events, said Moreno.  And some parents even come to choose outfits for their next job interview. 

“Here, they can come as many times as they want, browse through everything we have, and just shop away,” said Moreno.  “It’s just like a store, except there are no cash registers.”         

The principal hopes to keep expanding the Closet of Hope to serve more families in need.  Anyone interested in donating clothing or accessories can call the school at 713-773-5300.