METUCHEN, NJ - On a recent rainy Friday night, 50 students from Saint Joseph High School in Metuchen participated in Covenant House’s "Sleep Out To Support Homeless Youth," and, by doing so, raised $15,776 for the organization.  Students slept outdoors on campus grounds in self-constructed cardboard shelters. Their goal was to raise critical funds and awareness to make sure young people in need have a safe place to stay.

Organized by Saint Joseph Campus Ministry, an extra-curricular organization dedicated to promoting Catholic values through community service, the event raised money to help fund the day-to-day operations of Covenant House International.  This non-profit supports shelters in Newark, Camden, New York, and other cities throughout the East Coast.

As the evening began, students were given a presentation by Covenant House, which has been helping displaced youth escape life on the streets since 1972. The Campus Ministry members engaged in an informal discussion with representatives from the organization, including CEO Kevin Ryan ‘85, an alumnus of Saint Joe’s.  The speakers told the Saint Joseph community about the plague of youth homelessness in the nearby communities.

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“I was shocked at the amount of homeless people who are my age,” Connor Quigley ‘18 said. “To learn that thousands of homeless teens are taken-in by Covenant House each year and that they’re given both food and shelter, taught skills such as reading and writing, how to do laundry and other things needed to live on their own, it made me realize how lucky I am.  I went home and thanked my parents for all I have.”  

The members of Campus Ministry spent the evening after the talks preparing and delivering trays of Chicken Parmesan, pasta, and brownies to serve dinner to the 40 families currently in residence at Ozanam Shelter in Edison.

“Cooking a meal for the people at Ozanam gave me a  motivated feeling for the rest of the night,” Tomasz Kasztelan ‘17 said. “To know that our small act of charity fed 40 families enough food for one day was inspiring to me and gave me the energy to truly immerse myself into 'Sleep Out' for the rest of the night.”

Campus Ministry, under the direction of Father James De Fillips, Director of Catholic Identity at Saint Joseph, has set a fundraising goal of $80,000 for the current school year.   Activities the group will participate in are selected in accordance with its three pillars of devotion:  Evangelization, Community, and Leadership.  The success of 'Sleep Out' finds them well on their way of achieving that goal.  

Editor’s Note: Stephen Kenny is a student at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen and a contributor to TAPinto Clark.

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