01/26/2010
My Voice My Community
Jog-a-Thon raises money for Philadelphia's homeless population

NID projects address problems that concern students

The story of Kim Rakosky's 4thgrade class' project on homelessness illustrates the power of NID's "My Voice" process to change lives. . .

If you would have walked into Ms. Rakosky's classroom at Bache Martin Elementary School, in Fairmount, and heard the students talking about homelessness and their project, you might easily have thought you were listening to older students. As Napree thoughtfully said, “It gets you to think twice that it could be you and you should be happy it’s not.”

Ms. Rakosky's students learned about homelessness from a wide variety of perspectives. They: read interviews children in New York City shelters; talked with local business owners who lose customers when homeless people camp out on their steps; were inspired by a visit from a formerly homeless runner, one of Back on My Feet's first success stories. They wrote original poetry with imagery she found "chilling."

They read rnewspaper articles about the heartless manner homeless individuals are sometimes treated by others. In their written reflections, the students used words like cruel, apathetic, furious, and defenseless. Their teacher was “very encouraged by the depth of the expressive language used at this early stage.”

The children now understand people can become homeless as a result of poor decisions or judgment on their part, but that it can also happen as a consequence of circumstances beyond a person’s control. “They could have a drug problem,” says Jewel. “Their house could burn down,” contributes Howie. “They could have mental problems and lose their job,” suggests Hamidah. Or, says Antonia, “ They lived with a family member and got put out for some reason.”

"My students expressed deep concern and compassion in their reflections," said Ms. Rakosky. She saw the "empathy switch" turn on when students were discussing their project.

The culmination of their yearlong research was a Jog-A-Thon designed to raise money for their community partner: Back on My Feet, whose mission is to promote self-sufficiency among Philadelphia's homeless population by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.

To watch a video of their Jog-A-Thon, click here: http://web.mac.com/needindeed/Site/Jog-A-Thon.html