Several Montclair State University organizations met with representatives of Covenant House New Jersey for a Sleep Out event on Friday, March 18 at the Student Recreation Center patio.
The Sleep Out Event was co-sponsored by Campus Recreation, Health Promotion and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
It focused on giving students the knowledge and ability to understand the perspectives of those who are homeless and the various struggles they go through every day. Presentations and speeches painted the picture of how much homeless youth at Covenant House are not too different from regular college students.
Students present at the event were welcomed to s’more-making and campfires. They were also broken into groups to make gift bags, vision boards and cards with kind-hearted messages to be sent to Covenant House centers.
Tzu-Lin Toner, assistant director of campus recreation programs, enjoyed running the event and collaborating with students to make it happen.
“To listen to student inputs and work with them to come up with ideas, how to make them happen, plan them, promote them and ultimately make them come to fruition is an experience unlike any other,” Toner said.
It was recommended that students bring their own sleeping bags or blankets for the outdoor setting of the event. Various speakers shared the perspectives of homeless youth, how they might end up in such a situation and what students can do to support them.
Teni Bello, RecBoard community service chair and director of special events for Campus Recreation, explained why it was so important to host the event.
“I am definitely grateful that I took action from a lot of opportunities at [Montclair State] to host and speak at this event tonight to represent students,” Bello said. “As someone from poverty, being able to have a platform which will hopefully lead other students to support homeless youth and Covenant House is very inspiring and rewarding for me.”
Sara Duricko, a senior psychology major, said she learned a lot by attending the event.
“I’m very surprised by the sizable turnout of students for this event on a Friday night,” Duricko said. “This topic ties directly with psychology in learning how homeless youth live and act every day. I’m very happy to be here and learn what I can do in the fight against youth homelessness and what my classmates can offer as well.”
Covenant House has centers located across New Jersey. Aside from Montclair, they are present in Newark, Elizabeth, Atlantic City and Asbury Park with offices and centers to support homeless youth and young adults.
Kirsten Corley, a senior development associate at Covenant House, gave her input on the event and being an active part of it.
“This experience has been wonderful,” Corley said. “I love how students of all years share the same enthusiasm to learn about youth homelessness and what they can do to make a difference. [Bello] is a marvelous student leader. [Montclair State] and the rest of the students here have been very welcoming toward us.”
Dr. Melissa Zarin, the new associate director of CAPS, shared how it felt to attend this event.
“I took this job only a couple of months ago and to see the student body come together to learn about youth homelessness proves that they can do anything with their minds put together,” Zarin said.