North Carolina AHEC Program
spring 2012 newsletter | home

Homeless For a Night

Homeless for a NightImagine a circle of cardboard covered tents and students huddled with sleeping bags. That was the scene on November 19, 2011, when the Franklinton High School football field was transformed into a homeless camp (photo right). This event was part of a service learning project in Wake AHEC’s Youth Health Service Corps (YHSC) program for students to experience what it would be like to be homeless and to raise awareness about homelessness. Most students were surprised by the number of people who are homeless, and all of them learned how hard it is to sleep when you are cold. On that particular night, the temperature dipped into the low 30s.

Cassandra Smith, Brianna Roberts, Tori Thomas, and Erica Goswick (photo below: left to right) of Winn Clayton’s Medical Science I class initiated the project, and about 25 students participated, including members of the Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA) club and other Career Technical Education students.

Homeless Project participants

The week prior to the event, students collected food and clothing to donate to the Wrenn House in Raleigh, a homeless shelter and crisis intervention program for youth. According to Elaine Owens, Wake AHEC’s YHSC director, an important outcome of the project stemmed from the students’ discovery that there is no homeless shelter in Franklin County. After the event, Thomas and Roberts met with business owners to discuss the possibility of establishing a shelter. The students learned they can make a difference by raising awareness in the community and by advocating for change.

Youth Health Service Corps is part of a national program for high school students to encourage volunteerism and to prepare students for working in health care settings. The curriculum includes sensitivity to the challenges faced by vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low income children, the homeless, and those suffering from hunger. Wake AHEC began its YHSC program in 2008.