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Weston Ranch High reaches out to homeless
Weston Ranch High students have put together holiday care packages for fellow students that are in homeless situations. - photo by PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

The students in Room 107 at Weston Ranch High School are helping the campus’ less fortunate this holiday season with care packages that will include blankets, socks, soup and snacks, among other items. 

The packages will be available to all Weston Ranch students today and Wednesday, Nov. 26-27, in the counseling office. 

The students were challenged by their instructor, James Burns, to think of ways to impact the campus community. After learning that approximately a quarter of the Manteca Unified School District’s homeless students are enrolled at Weston Ranch schools, the students in Room 107 felt compelled to act. While their ideas ranged in scope and complexity, the students wanted to make sure whatever project they chose brought comfort and joy to the students in need.

The English I students, mostly freshmen, have put together small snack bags with personalized notes, each offering encouraging words and underscoring a campus camaraderie. The bags include soup and hot cocoa, and either granola bars or crackers. The English II students, mostly sophomores, will include new or gently used blankets and new socks in their care packages. 

Donations and support have streamed in from all corners of the San Joaquin County, including the communities of Stockton, Lathrop, Manteca, Lodi, Ripon and Escalon. Students have helped generate a buzz, sending out emails to family and friends and sharing the donation drive on social media. Room 107’s donation call-out has been retweeted and shared by the Marines and 209 Times, among others, and supported by Stockton city councilmember Jesus Andrade.

As donations roll in, filling the back of the classroom, many of the students have expressed an interest in continuing the philanthropy through Christmas and beyond. 

Several of the students in Room 107 have been homeless so they understand the needs and stresses of those in that situation.

Under the definition of homeless incorporated in the 1987 federal act that mandates school districts identify and provide certain services to homeless students, Manteca Unified had a peak of 1,086 homeless students out of an overall enrollment approaching 25,000 students last school year. The definition includes those housed in a shelter, living in motels, leaving with family or friends because they are a runaway or unaccompanied youth, and those living temporarily in a house or apartment with more than one family due to the loss of housing or economic hardship.