NCS stu­dents seek to make a dif­fer­ence with cap­stone projects

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Stu­dents be­came the teach­ers last week at Ne­wark Char­ter School, as the first of three groups of lead­er­ship stu­dents pre­sented their cap­stone projects to a packed room.

Ju­niors Ro­gelia Car­riza­les, Romelia Car­riza­les, Grace De­laney and Katie Hamelin or­ga­nized and led a home­less­ness aware­ness night, in­tended to in­form mem­bers of the public about the is­sue of home­less­ness and how they can help.

Fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, at­ten­dees packed 300 “go bags” – con­tain­ing snacks, toi­letries, socks and other items – to hand out to those in need.

“We wanted to make an im­pact,” De­laney said. “We’re tak­ing our lead­er­ship skills and putting them to good use.”

The event was the cap­stone of the stu­dents’ three-year study of Global Con­texts for Lead­er­ship, one of sev­eral ca­reer path­ways Ne­wark Char­ter high school stu­dents can choose.

The path­way fo­cuses on build­ing lead­er­ship skills and learn­ing about cur­rent eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. For the cap­stone project, stu­dents are re­quired to study a prob­lem fac­ing the com­mu­nity and re­search ways to ad­dress it.

“The ob­jec­tive is to cre­ate ac­tion be­hind lead­er­ship,” teacher Lisa Wester­field said. “I want to make them pas­sion­ate about a change and use their lead­er­ship skills to make the change hap­pen,” she said.

The stu­dents be­gan brain­storm­ing ideas last spring and have been work­ing on their projects in groups since Au­gust. The other groups this year did projects on wa­ter se­cu­rity and heroin abuse.

“This class is a way for us to in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity,” said Josh Ni­chol­son, who worked on the heroin project. “You hear about prob­lems and get to do some­thing to help.”

Kar­lie Dry­den, who also worked on the heroin project, agreed.

“We find is­sues we want to tar­get and help the com­mu­nity get in­volved,” she said.

Romelia Car­riza­les said she and her part­ners re­al­ize home­less­ness is a world­wide is­sue but hope to make even a small im­pact through their project.

“Help­ing one per­son is help­ing one more than be­fore,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the stu­dents’ pre­sen­ta­tion, there are ap­prox­i­mately 100 mil­lion home­less peo­ple in the world, 500,000 in the United States and 8,000 here in Delaware.

“It’s a global is­sue but it’s very real to us, even in a small town like Ne­wark,” Hamelin said.

While a few pan­han­dlers on Main Street or along a busy high­way draw the most at­ten­tion, the ma­jor­ity of home­less peo­ple do ev­ery­thing they can to avoid let­ting peo­ple know about their sit­u­a­tion.

“We could be in class with some­one and not know,” Hamelin said.

Ro­gelia Car­riza­les con­curred.

“Kids who are home­less look just like us,” she said. “It’s an is­sue that’s gone on far too long and needs to be solved.”

De­laney noted that many ex­perts be­lieve home­less shel­ters are not the so­lu­tion and merely pro­long the prob­lem.

“What home­less peo­ple re­ally need is help sta­bi­liz­ing their lives and find­ing a place to live,” she said.

The stu­dents in­vited Marc Mar­cus, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Ne­wark Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter, to speak at their event. The cen­ter, based out of the Ne­wark United Methodist Church, helps con­nect home­less peo­ple to ser­vices they need and also co­or­di­nates Code Pur­ple tem­po­rary shel­ters on the cold­est nights dur­ing the win­ter.

Mar­cus said the most com­mon ques­tion he gets is whether peo­ple should give money to pan­han­dlers, adding that he rec­om­mends peo­ple do not.

“Most of the time they have a re­ally good story that doesn’t have any­thing to do with their real life,” he said. “Most of the peo­ple do­ing that are sup­port­ing their ad­dic­tion.”

In­stead, peo­ple should of­fer food or other sup­plies, like the “go bags” they packed dur­ing the event.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Ne­wark Char­ter School ju­niors Grace De­laney, Ro­gelia Car­riza­les, Romelia Car­riza­les and Katie Hamelin or­ga­nized a home­less­ness aware­ness night as part of their lead­er­ship cap­stone project.

Vol­un­teers help pack “go bags” for the home­less dur­ing a home­less­ness aware­ness night at Ne­wark Char­ter School.

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