Buchholz High’s all-nighter will raise awareness for homeless

Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

On Friday night, students from Buchholz High School will abandon the comfort of their homes and meet in the school’s parking lot for an overnight stay.

The gathering, hosted by the Buchholz Student Council, Key Club and DECA, is an effort to simulate some of the daily circumstances faced by Alachua County’s homeless population.

“We’re hoping to get at least 100 people out to the event,” said Olivia Sanchez, 17-year-old Buchholz senior and DECA chapter president.

Sanchez said she hopes participants in “One Night Without a Home” will walk away with an increased appreciation for their own home situation and more respect for the challenges that homeless people face.

To attempt to come closer to the homeless experience, attendees will be restricted to bringing only a blanket or sleeping bag and a pillow when they congregate in the parking lot on Friday at 9 p.m. Soup, black coffee and water will be provided along with a cardboard box to use as shelter for the night. No cellphones or other electronic devices are permitted.

Organizers are extending invitations to Alachua County School Board members and to county and city commissioners in addition to Buchholz students.

Those participating are asked to make a minimum $10 donation that will benefit local homeless organizations, said Ana Journey, student activities director at Buchholz.

The event also coincides with the Florida Association of Student Councils’ state project for the year, “Helping Hands,” which focuses on raising awareness about homelessness.

Sanchez said schools with student councils that participate organize activities, such as One Night Without a Home, that support the year’s theme. They’ll present their work in the spring at the state conference.

“This project was one that the kids came up with and decided that this would a good way to involve all the clubs at the school, so it would be an encompassing student body activity, and obviously they could use it towards their state project,” Journey said.

Guest speakers Friday night will include Gwain Davis, executive director at Interfaith Hospitality Network; Theresa Lowe, executive director at Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry; and Andre Thomas from Basic Life Support Inc.

Jamie Betz, vice chairman of Called to Action, has volunteered to serve the meals Friday night and, according to Sanchez, Buchholz has already received donations from Bagel Bakery, Florida Food Service, Coffee Culture and Sweetwater Branch Inn.

“We’re always promoting helping others and reaching out and looking beyond just your school or just your class to really make a difference,” Sanchez said.

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