STUDENTS | April 26, 2018
A group of Morgan Park High School freshmen wanting to make a difference have been creating care packages and making sandwiches for the homeless for National Volunteer Week.
Their commitment to serve the community hasn’t gone unnoticed. In honor of their dedication, the student group, named EmpoWEredMPHigh, or EmpoWEred for short, was awarded last Tuesday with a $250 grant through WE, an international group that unites young adults in an effort for change.
The students participated in National Volunteer Week, joining tens of thousands of students across America through the WE Volunteer Now campaign that strives to empower youth to find their passion for change and rally together to help take action through volunteer work.
EmpoWEred teamed up with WE, Allstate and Disney High School Musical movie co-star Monique Coleman on Tuesday. The volunteers met at the school to make ham and cheese sandwiches and pack toiletry bags, ranging from baby wipes to socks, for The Amani House Women’s Shelter and Port Ministries, a nonprofit that provides food, healthcare and education to the community.
Students first became interested about volunteer work when WE representatives visited Morgan Park HS earlier this year and spoke with students about WE’s mission.
Emily Nelson, EmpoWEred’s co-president, said that they’ve been wanting to do something with the local homeless shelters all school year.
“When Allstate and WE proposed this idea to us, we started planning immediately, like what we wanted to do and the when, where and how,” she said.
Keanon Thompson, a teacher at Morgan Park and EmpoWEred Ambassador, said the message of WE resonated with the students.
“It got them really excited to do work in the community,” said Thompson.
Kayla Wesley, the group’s other co-president said their vice president came up with the name.
“We have empowered spelled with a capital WE in honor of the organization,” she said. “I think the name just fits us and how we feel about what we’re doing.”
Before they tackled the homeless issue, their first assignment was called #RefugeeProject.
The project started after the students noticed the refugee crisis taking place globally.
Jillian Harmon, the Program Manager for WE, says after learning about the project from Thompson, she was impressed by the students’ hard work.
Choosing a group to highlight was made easy, she said, adding that their refugee project had already impressed her.
“When it came time to highlight a group, we decided why not make it even more exciting for them and bring along some support to really recognize the work they do all year round,” Harmon said.
That’s when WE and Allstate got on board to help the students address homelessness in their community.
Nelson, EmpoWEred’s co-president, said that making a difference has always been an end goal.
“We’re always taught that we are the future and that we have to prepare for the future,” she said. “But the truth is that we are the now. We have to start doing things now in order to be prepared for the future.”
As the students continue to brainstorm their next project, their teacher Mr. Thompson says he hopes the students feel like their group name: empowered.
“The kids are already talking about doing new things for students and starting another project,” he said. “This is a great start for them to see how working together can make big things happen.”
EmpoWEred participated in WE Day April 25 at the Allstate Arena. WE Day is the world’s largest youth empowerment event.