By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While action on the homelessness emergency might seem to be mostly on the shoulders of adults – dealing with everything from encampments to taxes – homelessness has caught the attention of young people too.
We heard this week from Amy Ijeoma, a West Seattle High School junior who along with classmate Lexus Greenway made it the focus of a project they’re presenting in a regional competition tomorrow. We sat down with Amy after school on Thursday at WSHS to talk about it.
It’s the STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) Events competition as part of FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America). Their job: To come up with an action plan and present it to event officials, which they’ll do along with one other WSHS team and others from around the area, Saturday at Ingraham. They’re competing in the “advocacy” category, one of 15 categories.
As part of it, they are urging community members to do their part. They’re focused on Hope Place, which is a program for families experiencing homelessness. Amy says that volunteering is even more valuable than donating – “better to be there and see it yourself rather than throw some money and say that you’ve helped” – though Union Gospel Mission, which operates Hope Place, would be happy with contributions in either. You can tutor homeless elementary students, for example (volunteering info here; donating info here).
While working on the project, Amy says, she and Lexus have been going to Hope Place themselves “once or twice a month … to interact with the kids there.” It’s not just a shelter but also has a children’s activity center and continuing education for women, in areas from parenting to relationships and more, to help them successfully transition out of homelessness.
With us as we talked were two of the teacher/advisers of the program, Raya Klein and Brooke Huddleston, who explained that the students learned about Hope Place from WSHS’s new career specialist Helen Maynard, whose background includes nonprofit work. Visitors from Home Place presented at a WSHS assembly earlier in the year.
So tomorrow, Amy and Lexus have a 40-slide deck to present, about their goal, their plan, what kind of impact they’ve had, both through volunteering and through raising awareness on campus, including the poster with which Amy is posing in our photo above. “We want to get you thinking,” she says. They’re planning more posters, including some with statistics, and the causes of homelessness.
Teacher Klein adds that it’s an issue the school’s student-leadership ASB has embraced as well. And if more in the community are interested in helping – especially volunteering – that’s a win, regardless of how Amy and Lexus, and WSHS’s other team (also focused on homelessness, we’re told), do tomorrow.