Two students partner with Catholic Charities O.C. to help at-risk teens start school year on a positive note


Vicente Orozco is a 17-year-old Orange County student who attended Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic School for 11 years and is currently a Servite High School student. With these schools Vicente has been participating in a legacy of service to the community since he was a child.  

As part of the Servite Brotherhood Vicente has learned he can count on his fellow students when he needs help, and that he also has the responsibility to serve like Christ through acts of faith in his community. Vicente wanted to do more for people in need in Orange County and to specifically help other young men his age.  

Emma Zuniga is a 16-year-old Orange County student who alsoattended Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic School and moved on to Mater Dei High School. As a student and a Girl Scout of 11 years Emma has been participating in a legacy of service to the community since she was a child.  

As a long-time Girl Scout Emma is committed to active citizenship and promoting compassion through community service.  

Teens Vicente Orozco and Emma Zuniga are life-long friends and have years of experience volunteering to help kids in crisis like children of cancer patients or abused mothers, special needs children, and even abused kids or kids in foster care.  

It occurred to Vicente that he and his friends often help cute babies and adorable kids in need, but sometimes forget the teenagers. It’s often those older siblings that are not just suffering through the crisis like their younger siblings, but also have to grow up quickly and become part of the solution. These teens have to be more responsible siblings, supervise the little ones, and even get a job to help the family financially. As a result, they often lack the time and resources to be successful at school. Vicente wanted to help these teens be confident and go back to school, ready to learn. But he needed a partner to reach out to girls. Emma Zuniga was the perfect person. She stepped up and leads Sisters Helping Sisters Back to School.  

Emma and Vicente proposed to help other young men and women make the best of their education and high school experience by providing teens in need with gently used clothing and shoes as well as backpacks and school supplies.  

They didn’t just want to do a ‘hand out,’ but an entire experience that would uplift and encourage teens as they go back to school. They wanted to replace stress about finances and appearances with a joyful and uplifting experience. They wanted teens to pick what they like and help them feel good, as well as get what they need to start a new school year full of hope and a brighter outlook. The solution was a one-day pop- up shop full of fun, food, great clothes, including some items previously enjoyed, but also a few new items that teens could make their own.  

They also needed a way to identify teens, get the parents’ approval, and a great venue for their pop- up shop. They approached Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) with the idea of partnering with them. Catholic Charities helped identify teens as well as host the pop-up at their Doris Cantlay Food Distribution Center in Santa Ana.  

These teens called on friends, family and students of local schools like Servite High School, Mater Dei, Rosary, and JSerra to collect donations. With great support from generous families Emma and Vicente collected over 1,000 pounds of ‘merchandise’ for their pop-up. They collected new and previously enjoyed clothes and shoes, as well as new backpacks and school supplies every high school teen needs. Guess donated jewelry and they got cool socks form Active Ride Shop as well as much needed school supplies from Office Depot. Operation Be Kind donated 50 backpacks with school supplies!  

Volunteer parents and local high school students worked through the week to set-up the pop-up shop, complete with great music and even a Snack Shack that offered fresh fruit, pastries, freshly popped popcorn, drinks and sweets for teen shoppers and their families. Shoppers were helped by personal assistants as they walked through the center, shopping for ladies clothing, boys clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry, socks, backpacks, and school supplies. In all, 60 families brought their teens and enjoyed a day of carefree shopping. It was a day of great joy for teen participants and their families as well as volunteer parents and teen personal shoppers. Participant shoppers and volunteers alike hope this will be the first of many years for the Brothers Helping Brothers Back to School and Sisters Helping Sisters Back to School Pop-Up Shop.