Student leadership from all around Albuquerque came together on December 5th for a special city-wide Homeless Awareness Summit. Students screened The Homestretch, talked openly about some of the challenges facing fellow students who are experiencing unstable housing conditions, then split into small groups and brainstormed actions and solutions for their own schools. Dozens of area schools, both public and private, were invited to participate in this first-ever event, presented by the Albuquerque Public Schools Title I Homeless Project, and supported by a special grant from The Fledgling Fund.
This all-day event started with breakfast and a screening of The Homestretch, followed by a candid question and answer session that included Roque from the film, the Albuquerque Public Schools' Homeless Liaison Patrick Scott, Quinn Donnay, the Transitional Living Program Director from New Day Youth and Family Services and one of the film's director/producers, Anne de Mare. After breaking for lunch, students reconvened in the library upstairs, were split into small, mixed-school groups for an in-depth discussion of some of the profound challenges facing youth who experience homelessness. They were then reunited with students from their own schools to brainstorm specific actions they could implement in their own communities. Actions ranged from programs to collect supplies and provide food, to innovative peer awareness programs designed to challenge the harmful negative stereotypes that surround homelessness and encourage youth to speak out and speak up for each other.
In addition to the students, the summit was attended by members of the Albuquerque City Council, representatives from the Mayor's office, and a number of school officials, including the head of APS Title I Programs. The entire event was an amazing and inspiring example of what can happen when local leadership comes together to support their youth, and when they engage young people themselves in finding solutions to the devastating crisis of youth homelessness.
This event was made possible through a special grant to The Homestretch Impact Campaign from Fledgling Fund to leverage the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative program with educators in 7 mid-size cities across the U.S. These cities were selected because they (1) show a significant increase in youth homelessness over the past five years; (2) their school district has a strong relationship with the National Association for The Education of Homeless Children and Youth; and (3) the local PBS affiliate has a strong American Graduate Initiative program. Read more about this important initiative here.