High school students help the homeless

Students for social and global change travel to Boston.

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Blake Leasure and Astoria Hall raised funds on Friday so that a group of high school students could help the homeless in Boston. – Lucas Thors

Members of the Social and Global Change Club at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will take part in a collaborative effort that brings them to the Common Cathedral in Boston on Dec. 14 to learn about homelessness from those who have experienced it.

The trip is part of the Common Cathedral’s Cityreach program — an urban outreach program that started in 1996 and provides a 20-hour session where participants join Cityreach staff in offering hospitality, hot food, and clothing to Boston’s homeless population. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown organized the event for Islanders.

Students will spend the night at the church in downtown Boston and receive valuable exposure to an issue that, according to president of the Social and Global Change Club Blake Leasure, does not receive enough attention on-Island.

“People don’t really know about homelessness here on Martha’s Vineyard. It is kind of an issue that is kept in the dark most of the time,” Leasure said.

According to Leasure, the original price per student for the trip was $70, but since so many students showed interest in the trip, that price was increased to $100 to pay for travel expenses and food. So Leasure and fellow club member Astoria Hall set up at the old Bunch of Grapes location on First Friday, Dec. 7, and raised funds to pay for the trip. The two students were giving out boxes of Chilmark Chocolates to anyone who donated $30 or more for the trip. “After 22 students said they wanted to go on the trip, we knew we were going to need more money, and figured we should try some fundraising,” Leasure said. “It’s for a good cause.”

This is the club’s second year attending the Common Cathedral Cityreach program, and Leasure said he is excited to experience it again and give what he can to those less fortunate. “It really is a sobering experience,” Leasure said. “Not only is it eye-opening, but it removes the stigma surrounding homelessness.”

Leasure said homelessness is never a conscious choice, and most homeless people are looking to find a way off the streets. “Nobody chooses to be homeless. Sure, some people make mistakes, but a lot of people are unable to work because of a physical or mental condition,” Leasure said. “We shouldn’t look down on homeless people; we need to help them and spread the word.”

The students have raised $450 of the overall $500 amount needed to fund the trip. Leasure said they had already received $159 in donations since they set up their table at 3 pm on Friday. Club member Astoria Hall said interacting with homeless people provides a new perspective. “It’s just a really cool opportunity — I think it can teach people a lot,” Hall said.

Both Leesure and Hall are seniors at MVRHS, but they say there are a number of juniors and some underclassmen making the trip. “We are always looking for new members to join and help out,” Leasure said.