A group of middle school students in Southern California is trying to change how people view the homeless, turning apathy into compassion.
The students, seventh and eighth graders from Summit Intermediate School in Rancho Cucamonga, are part of an Odyssey of the Mind team. Odyssey of the Mind teaches kids how to solve problems and work together, and the group chose to focus on homelessness. "I think that more people should look toward the homeless community as people rather than things that are just on the streets, and they shouldn't be a source of fear," Alana Okonkwo, 13, told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
The students made posters with statistics about homeless youth, created the hashtag #homelessnotless, and for two weeks held a toiletries drive. They then put together care kits, which included backpacks filled with supplies, sleeping bags, and inspirational messages on cards, and distributed them to local homeless individuals and shelters. Coach Audrey Okonkwo said that by having conversations with homeless individuals, some of their preconceived notions "were challenged," and "the kids, I think, learned a lot from that and are going to be able to take that experience and use that to make a social impact throughout their lives."