This article was originally published in the fall 2014 Harker Quarterly.
About a half dozen members from the Harker community spent time volunteering for StandUp For Kids (SUFK), a national outreach organization and center for homeless teens that seeks to end the cycle of youth homelessness throughout the United States.
From two of Harker’s upper school students painting an art mural to lower school parents donating folding chairs to members of the school’s faculty and staff preparing meals – these individuals have all helped the nonprofit, volunteer-driven effort in their own unique ways.
Stephanie Woolsey, a lower school math teacher at Harker, has been a longtime volunteer with SUFK. She said the Silicon Valley branch is an entirely volunteer-run center that survives on donations from the community.
Most recently, Avni Barman and Jessica Yang, both grade 12, painted a mural on a wall at the StandUp For Kids’ San Jose facility. They designed and created the painting using donated paint they secured themselves.
“Avni arranged getting some donated paint and materials from the Home Depot, and she and Jessica created the design, which was approved by the leadership at SUFK. I also donated artist paints and materials,” said Woolsey.
Sarah Zareen, director of the SUFK- Silicon Valley mentor program, said that it warms her heart when young people come together to help homeless youth. “The talented teen artists from The Harker School came to paint a mural in The Village. The beautiful mural not only adds color but also is inspiring,” she said.
In addition to the student artists, Woolsey noted that Harker parents Mustafa Gurleroglu and Monique Cabral (Emma Gurleroglu, grade 5) donated folding chairs to the organization last year.
“Chef Steve [Martin] is also donating meals one day a month (SUFK provides meals Monday and Thursdays, as well as showers, clothing, etc.) and I bring them to the center,” Woolsey added.
The primary goal of SUFK is to establish and build relationships with runaway, homeless and street-dependent youth and young adults, ages 13-25. Through supportive relationships with caring adults the organization helps young people adjust to safe and appropriate alternative living arrangements while becoming independent, self-sufficient, contributing members of society.
The SUFK Street Outreach Team literally goes to the streets to locate homeless and at-risk youth; extensive training helps the volunteers identify those who need help, who often blend into the crowd for their own safety. The organization also provides an outreach/drop-in center to provide a protective environment for at-risk youth who are looking to escape the dangers of the streets.
StandUp For Kids is currently seeking both volunteer and financial contributions. For more information about SUFK and its work: http://www.standupforkids.org/.