Nearly 50 St. Anthony Village High School students participated in a “sleep out” Friday, March 28, to raise awareness of homelessness in the local area and to raise money for the cause.
Students brought sleeping bags and set up tents on a grassy area in front of the school; some even slept in cardboard boxes. Prior to settling in for the night, students accepted food and cash donations from local residents and participated in a scavenger hunt.
Dressed in winter gear, the group kept warm next to a few above-ground fire pits, where they shared stories and sipped hot chocolate. Adult chaperones were on-site and the school building was available to those who needed a break from chilly overnight temperatures that bottomed out in the low 20s.
Holding an annual sleep out for the homeless has been a tradition for the school’s National Honor Society (NHS) students for years. This year, students from the Key Club joined in to support the cause.
Key Club faculty advisor Josh Dumas said a goal was set for each student to obtain $50 in sponsorships to be donated to a charitable organization that helps the homeless. He said last year’s sleep out raised $1,000 and students were on track to push the $2,500 mark this year.
“I’d like to thank both the NHS president, Thu Nguyen and Key Club president, Amber Greevers for helping to make the sleep out a success by working together,” sleep out organizer Akanksha Kumar said.
Kumar, 18, is the vice president of the Key Club and also a member of the NHS. As of last week, she said many students had already met their sponsorship goals. Like last year, all money raised through the sleep out will be donated to the Bridge for Youth organization in Minneapolis.
“It’s such a great cause, why not do it?” she says. “Bridge for Youth is a very good organization that helps homeless teens by providing them with shelter, clothes, getting to school and other services.”
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit provides emergency shelter, a 24-hour emergency hotline, counseling, transitional programs and ongoing support services for youth between the ages of 10 and 17 free of charge. Besides providing a safe haven for runaway and homeless kids, the Bridge for Youth also aims to help youth and their families resolve their conflicts and build healthy relationships.
Marie Harvat, development and communications assistant at the Bridge for Youth, said the organization serves an average of 1,000 youth and families each year.
While there are multiple reasons why teens end up homeless, Harvat says oftentimes “it happens because of normal adolescent pushing and parental conflict, which gets exacerbated by mental health, chemical dependency and financial strife somewhere in the family structure.”
For more information on the Bridge for Youth, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.bridgeforyouth.com  or call 612-230-6601.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 651-748-7824.