By Maddie Connery, Logan Hytten, Teryn Hytten, and Jenney Samuelson
For the third year in a row, a group of Shelburne youth teamed up to spread the word about homelessness and show their support to other youth and young adults in need. The students participated in the annual Spectrum’s Sleep Out, and continue to raise money to benefit Spectrum Youth and Family Services.
Spectrum gives food, shelter, counseling, mentoring, and coaching on life skills to 2,000 at-risk homeless teens and young adults each year. As one client put it: “I cried when they said I was going to a shelter. But when I got here [Spectrum], I realized this was home.”
Spectrum relies on the funds raised by the Sleep Out to provide these vital services. Shelburne youth helped Spectrum achieve their mission. Forty-five students slept outside for the night on April 2 to experience what it might be like if they were homeless. Madeleine Connery, one of the team captains and a fifth grader, explains why she does the Sleep Out, “Because I want struggling teens and young adults to know that I have their backs. That they can get help when they need it most. That they matter.”
It is not just a fun night out; the students take their roles seriously. For the last month they have been preparing for the night by reading and discussing what it might be like to be homeless. As Teryn Hytten, another team captain and a third grader, put it, “It can be an eye-opening experience. The first year we slept out it rained and snowed, last year it was 5oF and the train went through very early in the morning. In both cases it was cold, uncomfortable, and hard to sleep.”
This year, it was not just about the one-night experience. Students took responsibility for coordinating much of the event. A group of five team captains worked with adults to take a leadership role in planning the details of the logistics, agenda, and organizing volunteers. Robbie Fragola and Ian Story affirm that it has been a good experience to get behind the scenes. “We are old enough to lead book discussions, help plan events, and do some of the work. It gives us an appreciation for how much work it takes and we only do it for one night. The staff at Spectrum work this hard year round.”
The town, the school, and businesses in Shelburne chipped in to make it happen. At school with the students, the third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers talked up the event and did a penny and food drive. The teachers hoped to build a sense of empathy among their students.
In the end, it was a community affair. Hytten said, “It takes a village, and that includes everyone in Shelburne. The first year we started small with 13 girls, last year with 35 kids involved our community, family and friends showed that they really care by helping us raise more than $5,000.”
This year the community and businesses opened their hearts again, and the SCS students raised even more to lend a hand and help change people’s lives. Donations, no matter the amount, make a big difference. To check out more about the Shelburne Teams’ efforts or to donate, you can go to: http://give.spectrumvt.org/goto/Shelburne.
The students are especially grateful to the business that have helped make the event possible: Flying Pig, Shelburne Market, The Town of Shelburne, the Shelburne Police Department and the Shelburne Community School.