Recently, 37 St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) students gave up a Friday night to share, in a small way, the experience of the 1.6 million homeless teens in America by becoming “homeless” themselves. Sponsored by the school’s Campus Ministry Team, the students built a “Cardboard City” in the STA parking lot, where they spent the night.
"Cardboard city was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Not because it was cold, or hard sleeping in a box for the night, but because it showed me how hard some people have it in life. Not knowing where you will eat your next meal, or even if you will have a next meal is very sad," explained senior Hannah Schwoerer.
Before participating in this meaningful event, each student raised a minimum of $100. Together, this group of committed students raised over $5000. Of that amount, $1000 will be used to support the work of local homeless shelters, while the remainder goes to support St. Thomas’ work this summer with Young Neighbors in Action (YNIA).
In many ways, YNIA was one of two guiding forces behind the St. Thomas Aquinas’ efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the plight of the homeless. The other is the school’s effort on behalf of Lazarus House Ministries, which also serves the homeless.
When engaged with both programs, students provide labor, tutoring skills and yard work; they serve food and work with children. STA students who have participated in these programs have called it a “life-changing experience.”
Walter Hutcheson, a junior at STA explains, "As I lay in my cardboard box that night, I felt the cold, discomfort and loneliness that many must suffer through every night. However, I had something that many homeless do not. Though I was physically hurting, the knowledge that I had a warm breakfast, loving family and comfortable bed awaiting me in the morning warmed me. It was this hope that made my experience much more bearable than the suffering that many homeless must endure."
Because of those efforts, students realized that they needed to know more about the struggles and hardships of the lives led by the homeless. So, when the idea of a Cardboard City was first proposed, there was an enthusiastic response.
Spearheading the project were senior Emily Keane and junior Meaghan Flynn. Additionally, a dozen adult volunteers chaperoned through the night, and many students came in to cook and serve dinner and breakfast. For 37 committed, caring students, it was the perfect opportunity to learn, serve and grow as a community.
Located in Dover, St. Thomas Aquinas High School is a coeducational, Catholic high school community where young people are challenged academically, to stretch their hearts spiritually and to embark on a journey to make a difference. For more information, visit us at www.stalux.org or call 603-742-3206.