03/23/2012
My Voice My Community
"Being Homeless Breaks Peoples' Hearts"

5th Graders Take on Homelessness

“When you think about homeless people, what do you think of?” Rachel Falcove, executive director of the Northwest Interfaith Hospitality Network (NIHN), asked Judy Acevedo’s 5th graders recently at Antonia Pantoja Charter School.

“I think about how my dad was homeless when he was a kid because his family didn’t have a home,” one student volunteered.

“My dad had a bad childhood and ran away, and he was homeless for a while,” shared another.

“I think about what I can do to make a difference, and what I can do to help,” said a young man.

These responses show their understanding of homelessness and the empathy they have for those who experience it. But they also demonstrate how Need in Deed helps teachers to create a safe space and sense of community in the classroom through the service-learning project.

Judy is clearly proud of how her students are tackling such a serious - and sad - topic. As the class secretary recorded in his notes, “It breaks peoples’ hearts to be homeless.”

“After we heard student presentations on each topic, everyone moved to homelessness,” Judy said, explaining how her class had come to consensus on this topic. “We realized that we could be homeless one day.”

Rachel first explained to the students how NIHN works, and then worked with them to come up with ways that they could help others - especially kids - who are experiencing homelessness. “If you know a child who is homeless here at school, what can you do?” she asked.

“Play with them and talk to them!”

“Don’t tease them or be mean to them.”

Rachel and the students came up with several other ways they can help, like creating artwork or stories for families served by NIHN or being pen-pals with them. By the time the visit was over, Judy and her students were brimming with ideas and ready to get started!