NYJL volunteers raise over $22,000 for Covenant House
On Friday, March 18, eight NYJL volunteers participated in the Covenant House Sleep Out to Support Homeless Youth: Young Professional Edition, sleeping outside the Covenant House shelter in Hell’s Kitchen to raise funding for the organization. The New York City Sleep Out raised $600,000, of which the NYJL team, “A League of Their Own,” has raised over $22,000 to date. Team members included Jessica Luciano, Mary Marshall, Kat O’Leary, Caroline Peck, Caroline Ryals, Kristine Shoemaker, Sarah Theobald, and Lauren Vitale.
Covenant House, a longtime NYJL community partner, is the largest privately funded charity in the Americas providing care and services to homeless and exploited youth. Volunteers on the NYJL’s Rights of Passage at Covenant House committee provide residents with life skills workshops designed to help them succeed while living at the shelter and beyond. Workshops include working sessions, such as career roundtables and education on domestic violence, and activities such as yoga and hip-hop classes. Rights of Passage volunteers are passionate about their work, the kids they serve, and Covenant House.
“It’s fulfilling to be able to provide support to and inspire hope within kids who often have a history of abuse and have been taught to have low self worth. These homeless youth have been through incredible hardships and have the resilience to choose Covenant House, to work with the supportive staff, face their challenges head on, and successfully transition into independent living,” said Kristine Shoemaker, co-chair of the Rights of Passage committee. “Participating in the Sleep Out for the past two years has provided me a deeper sense of who these kids are, what they’ve been through, and the transformative change they are able to undertake with the support of Covenant House.”
Covenant House put on a fantastic evening for the 250 participants. Early on, the staff shared a video about two Covenant House success stories, one of whom talked about her personal growth at Covenant House:
“We’ve been taught not to feel good about ourselves. We’ve be taught not to love ourselves. We don’t know how to make our parents love us and we don’t know how to fix what broke them. But, today I can honestly say I know better. That’s not me. All of the things I’ve been through… that was a step in my journey… just a step.”
Another session included panel discussions featuring current residents alongside staff members. The kids talked about how their experience at Covenant House differed from previous shelter environments, their life goals, and how the resources and emotional support at Covenant House were helping them build better lives. The most common word used by staff to describe the kids was “resilient.”
This resilience was evident in a special appearance from a former resident, who said that prior to Covenant House, “I didn’t smile because I didn’t believe in anything.” Thanks to Covenant House and her own perseverance, she is now four and a half years sober and will graduate from college in May with a 4.0 GPA.
“Many of the kids living at Covenant House have escaped abusive home environments, and the Sleep Out helps Covenant House fund critical programs that ensure that abuse and homelessness are but a tiny chapter in each kid’s life story,” said Kat O’Leary, NYJL Internal Communications Council Head. “As a Council Head, I understand the connection my work has with the NYJL’s community programs, but I don’t always get to experience it firsthand. Participating in the Sleep Out left me feeling more connected to my volunteer work at the NYJL – and my role as a citizen of New York City.”
Want to help make a difference in the lives of homeless youth? There’s still time to contribute to the “A League of Their Own” Sleep Out page. You can also reach out to the Rights of Passage committee for more information about how to get involved.