By Sheri Duff and Sadie Williams
Last year a team of 10 Shelburne girls committed to join other youth teams from across the state to sleep outside and show solidarity for homeless youth in Vermont as part of the Spectrum Youth & Family Services Student Sleep Out.
As opposed to their adult counterparts, the Student Sleep Out is an opportunity for the younger set to sleep outside in their backyard, at school, or another convenient location to raise money and awareness for homelessness. Once this year’s Student Sleep Out date was announced the girls immediately committed to sleeping out again and inspired other students, and a boys’ team, to participate.
This year a total of 28 SCS students, 20 girls, 13 boys, decided to sleep out together on Saturday night, March 28 in Shelburne to benefit clients of Spectrum Youth & Family Services. Spectrum provides shelter, community, and support services for homeless and at-risk youth and their families throughout the state. According to Spectrum’s website the two teams have raised $2,587 with three more days to go.
“For last year’s event, the girls were driven to understand homelessness and to do something about it,” said Jenny Samuelson, a participant’s mom. This year, even more effort went into preparing the students for the event.
SCS teachers Vasanthi Meyette and Cara Crowther raised awareness on the Endeavor team by coordinating classroom readings of books recommended by the Pierson Library and school librarian, and facilitated class discussions and journaling projects to raise awareness about homelessness. They also conducted a penny drive to raise money for Spectrum, and Meyette worked with parents to coordinate and lead an after school meeting to educate students about homelessness and the sleep out.
The local community has supported the youth’s efforts. Flying Pig Bookstore gave a generous discount to families so kids could purchase and read “How to Steal A Dog,” Pierson Library ordered books about homelessness for the classroom, Shelburne Supermarket donated food for the event, and the town and police have helped facilitate the benefit as well.
The night of the sleep out, which will take place at an undisclosed location, Executive Director of Spectrum Mark Redman is scheduled to be on hand and Shelburne Police Chief Warden is tentatively scheduled to make appearance. The evening will include group discussion, journal writing, singing, and a candle light vigil and walk – all activities are aimed at raising awareness of homeless youth. The goal is to keep the tone of the event serious and not festive. Children will be asked to bring an ingredient to share for a stone soup, but are asked not to spend more than $3, more than many people have per meal.
“There is more homelessness in Vermont than there ever has been before,” noted Kelly Story, another participant’s mom. “I have been so impressed with the kids. They are really interested in the topic and it has generated some great conversation. For instance the kids now understand that it takes approximately $1,500-2,500 just to rent an apartment. And even more difficult to understand is that there is homelessness in their hometown. They also want to know how they can be a hero in these difficult times.”
Sleep Out participants include: Madeleine Connery, Grace Barrett, Emma Bosma, Anais Diaby, Tess Everett, Stella Ewald, Erin Fina, Chloe Galvin, Abbie Harris, Logan Hytten, Teryn Hytten, Rae Kanarick, Eliza Konowitz, Lily Mincar, Zoe Richardson, Bevan Roberts-Williams, Caroline Servis, Caroyn Siccama, Haley Trombley, Fiona Wuertz, Ian Story, Dylan Bokan, Max Brumsted, Ted Connery, Anders Erickson, Robbie Fragola, Jack Knudsen, Jake Morris, Gabriel Nelson, Marcel Nelson, Riley Normand, Logan Pickard, and Kyle Tanis.
To make a donation to the Shelburne teams, visit www.spectrumvt.org/events, click the “Spectrum’s Student Sleep Out” logo, and follow the “Register Now” link to donate to “Shelburne Girls Sleep Out or “Shelburne Boys Team.”