buildOn New York Serves Homeless in Philadelphia

by Haddijatou Waggeh

You would expect to find most high school students still asleep at 7 a.m. during the summer— but that wasn’t the case for our buildOn New York students in our Youth Engagement Zone summer program. Thirteen students from Collegiate Preparatory Academy at Longwood (CPAL, formerly known as Banana Kelly High School) were boarding a Greyhound bus last Wednesday, August 8 for a service project at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Philadelphia.

Once they arrived at the shelter, students jumped right in by helping prepare lunch. They peeled corn and set the tables. The head chef was impressed that the students were able to work as a team and accomplish all of the prep work ahead of schedule. After this, students acted as waiters, bringing plates of food to members of the shelter.

As students made their way into the eating area, they were confused by the many stares they were receiving from the members at the shelter. But that awkwardness quickly changed into conversation and laughter between the students and the members. “Everyone seemed so interested in us. Many of the members were surprised to see students from the South Bronx in Philadelphia doing service,” said Oscar Carino, a senior at the academy.

Our buildOn students helped serve lunch to 80 men and women! The visit allowed them to understand that homelessness is not an issue that only exists within the Bronx, but it’s an issue that other inner city neighborhoods are facing.

“The best part of the visit was when all the people in the soup kitchen clapped and thanked us as we were leaving,” said Erika Espinal, senior at the academy. “This really made me feel like we helped make a difference in another community.”