Stern Sleeps Out for Homeless Youth

Stern Sleeps Out in Solidarity with NYC’s Homeless Youth

The Opportunity Staff

New York University has long celebrated the fact that New York City is its campus. Its prime location in the heart of one of the most bustling, diverse, intellectually stimulating cities in the world gives NYU students an unparalleled opportunity to make the most out of their very own backyard.

With this luxury, however, comes the responsibility to recognize the complete experience that is New York City—the good and the bad. Not all students worry about what party they’ll be attending this weekend—some worry about whether or not they’ll have shelter when the rain moving up the coast hits the city. Some students may worry about getting their term paper in before the deadline—others may worry about where they’ll get their next meal, so that they can then focus on their assignments and not their immediate, physical needs.

Stern students have accepted this responsibility, to educate themselves on the plight of some of their contemporaries. For millions of children and young adults in the Americas, shelter and other basic needs are not a given. In an effort to understand this struggle and what can be done to alleviate it, Stern students partnered with American agency Covenant House to organize Stern Sleeps Out on Saturday, October 22.

In order to express their solidarity for homeless youth in NYC and beyond, as well as to raise money for the cause, the NYU Stern community spent Saturday night “Sleeping Out,” outside on the Gould Plaza.  Before they set up outside the Stern complex, attendees were presented an evening’s program of inspirational and informative discussion. In attendance were businesspeople involved in the philanthropy provided by Covenant House—which operates in 27 cities throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America—as well as youth directly impacted by the efforts of the initiative.

The stories from the young, formerly homeless house members were increasingly inspiring, as they went on. One woman, Siobhan hopped between family member’s apartments and park benches, and finally found a home at Covenant House. She is now completing her high school diploma, embarking on a job as a security officer, and has big dreams for the future. The second young man, Marcus, hailed from Compton, California. He was raised in a violent environment, but is now learning to turn his anger into humor. The final, and perhaps most astonishing story was from a young African-American, Isaiah, who joined a violent gang at the age of 12.  After years of crime and being locked up, he realized that this is not the life he wants to lead, and is working on becoming a doctor. All three Covenant House members had only stayed at the house for approximately three months; their journeys were evidence that a little support can go a long way.

The students who signed up for the event raised more than $15,000 by the morning of the 22nd. By the end of the event, the group raised a grand total of $18,562.

“This event has been on the Stern Philanthropy’s team radar for a while,” said Leo Ng, Stern MBA student and board member with NYU Stern Philanthropy (Digital Marketing/Business Analytics/Strategy, Class of January 2018). “The idea was Rafa Bouabdellah’s, VP of Stern Philanthropy [Class of May 2017]. The goal was to broaden the breadth of philanthropy. Instead of the normal drives that are done, we wanted to allow the student body to participate in something different. Hopefully this shows that events that do good are also interesting and fun to participate in.”

Although there was universal interest in the event, coordination of such an undertaking is never without its hurdles.

“As with all events, so many difficulties arise without warning—however, the team behind scenes did an awesome job figuring out all these issues,” Ng said of his fellow students. “Special shout out to Rafa Bouabdellah, Dara Heimowitz, Matt Kaplan, and the folks at OSE. We are extremely pleased with the number of people who engaged with Stern Sleeps Out, because of how many different events students can choose from here at Stern.”

Although one evening cannot accurately depict the struggles experienced by homeless youth in our communities, Stern Sleeps Out started a crucial conversation that will have lasting effects for both the participants and the recipients of their time and support.

“We hoped to raise awareness to the issue of homeless youth in NYC. We definitely achieved that goal with all the help of all the members of the Stern community,” Ng said. “The generosity from our community has been second to none.”

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