Building Hope: A school project that is A+ worthy
BY LINDSEY BLEST, 19, Freestyle Staff Writer
Most high school classrooms are filled with students who pay attention for the sole purpose of receiving a passing grade. High school is notoriously known as a time for preparing students for their futures, when they will actually be able "to accomplish things."
In the Communications I class at Lancaster Catholic High School, the mood is drastically unlike the stereotypical high school classroom. Taught by Ann Schober, the class of 18 juniors and two seniors is participating in an extremely hands-on project this school year.
On Feb. 19, Building Hope, a weekly safe haven for runaway or homeless teens, will open. The mission statement for the project is "everyday in cities throughout the United States, teens are seen walking the streets because they have run away or have been kicked out of their homes. Lancaster is no different."
Building Hope will be open from 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays at St. John's Episcopal Church, 321 W. Chestnut St.
The project, which began with the question, "If you could change the world, what would you do?" has been created and executed by Schober's class.
"We all had to pick a project," says Gira Rodriguez, a LCHS junior. "It was all based off of what we wanted to do by the end of this year. For some reason, we all picked this one because this is the best one. We all want to help out teens, and some of us have been through it, so we just want to help them out."
Some of the teens in the class know first-hand the struggle that comes with being on the streets.
During a recent presentation of the class project, one teen shared her experience in an anonymous recording.
"I will never forget the feeling of being scared to go home… I can't be safe anymore. I am in this alone." She shared her story of abuse, fear and loneliness. Her experience now propels her onward to help others.
"If you really knew me, you'd know that I've always had a dream to help others teens just like me get off the streets and be somewhere safe so they don't need to suffer like I did. I want to build hope for other teens to make their world a better place. Even if it's just for a little while, I can still make a difference in someone's life."
The diverse group of students has found unity through the process of creating Building Hope.
"We have all kinds of different students in here, but we all have that one thing in common," says junior Katie Filling. "We all see this huge need in the community, and we all want to play a part in changing that by giving these kids the chance to be safe and have the life that they deserve."
Because this project began as a massive undertaking, they split the project into two parts: Phase One and Phase Two.
"We are right now in the process of Phase One, which we have completed and we will opening (the center) on Feb. 19," Filling says. "It will be a temporary place for kids to come once a week and we will provide a meal for them.
"We will have activities for them to do, things to keep them entertained. If they need counseling, or if they just need someone to talk to, we will be there," Filling says.
There will also be a volunteer psychologist on hand for teens to talk to, according to Filling.
"Through counseling and other types of socially active speaking we will promote the family and the home as a great place to be," junior Tristan Mrakovich says.
Although Phase One only allows for a temporary safe place for teens in need, the class members say it is an important first step.
"If they don't have anywhere to go, they will at least have that little time to feel safe," Filling says.
During Phase Two, class members will work to provide overnight shelter for teens through a third party.
The class hopes to "acquire and operate an overnight shelter and to have 30 to 50 percent of all teens off the streets and in a safe environment," says junior Rachel DiPietro.
To move forward with Phase Two, the Building Hope team is presenting its goals to local organizations and important people in the community.
According to junior Mary Zanowski, class members have presented to the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, a representative from a local homeless coalition and others.
They are hoping to present to Mayor Rick Gray of Lancaster city.
"We're going to slowly get there, get the word out," says Mrakovich. "Obviously (Gray) deserves to know what we're trying to do."
Schober keeps encouraging her class members to tell their story.
"We just want teens who are homeless and who have been kicked out of their homes to know that that is the one place they can go," Schober says. "That's huge."
Schober foresees promising connections with well-known local sponsors in the near future.
"This is a big deal. We need big names to help us move forward," says Schober.
As the opening date approaches, the preparation for the launch continues. Fundraising has been key to the entire process, with the class holding a fundraiser lunch and selling carnations to the student body for Valentine's Day, according to Michael Kline.
"They're very supportive," junior Tedd Boucard says of schoolmates.
Other fundraising plans include writing letters to people in the community or family members who are located outside of the Lancaster area.
In addition to handing out fliers, social media has also been key in getting out word of Building Hope.
"We made a Web page on Facebook," says junior Kody Biddle. "And we've got a Twitter going on right now to get the word out to all of the teens."
The entire process has required countless hours of hard work and dedication. And, unlike the Communications I course, Building Hope will not end when this school year does.
"Next year we can still volunteer to do it," says DePietro. The students are confident that Building Hope will continue long after they leave the school.
"This class came together in August not really knowing each other very well, and they all kind of got behind this big idea of helping homeless teens, and they aren't stopping," Schober says. "It's crazy how much they've gotten accomplished in just a few short months. I'm very proud of them.
"The hard part is going to be when a teen walks in and you know they're homeless and have to send them home at 8," Schober says. "That's going to make us even more passionate about getting a permanent shelter."
"Our school's motto is 'All in!' We are 'all in!'" says junior Recher Pina.
And the members of the class are hoping for the community to be also.
· Find Building Hope on Facebook at facebook.com/BuildingHopePhase1 and on Twitter at "BuildingHope2."
Please see BUILDING HOPE, page 8
"If you could change the world, what would you do?"
LCHS Communications I class question