LYNNWOOD — A lesson on teen activism for the sixth-grade class at College Place Elementary School uncovered an unexpected face of homelessness for some of the students.
Classmate Trevion Brown revealed that his family had been homeless for nearly two years.
He told his fellow students his mother didn’t have a drug or alcohol problem, but was just going through tough times.
“That moment shifted what homelessness was to them,” said Angie Carkeek, a sixth-grade teacher at College Place. “It just changed their perspective.”
Trevion’s story helped to break down stereotypes, Carkeek said, prompting many students to reevaluate their attitudes.
That was one of the goals of the lesson, which then inspired the class’s legacy project — Blankets of Hope.
The students partnered with the New York-based group Blankets of Hope to deliver 80 purple blankets accompanied by handwritten notes to their homeless neighbors. The national organization was started by two brothers motivated to take action after passing by the same homeless people every day as they went to work.
As homelessness becomes more visible closer to home, Carkeek and her fellow sixth-grade teachers at College Place wanted to challenge their own stereotypes along with those of their students.
During the lesson, sixth-grader Matta Jallow was surprised by just how many teenagers are left without housing after family disagreements.
Aliya Estrada was sad to learn that people experiencing homelessness are often ignored.
“We are all people. I’d want people to talk to me,” Aliya said.
“People judge them for the way they look,” added Esmerald Rangel, a student in the class.
There’s usually more to their story than what can be seen, she said.
After the lesson, the blankets and notes were distributed. Some were given out at YWCA’s Pathways for Women, an emergency shelter in Lynnwood, while others were provided at a community dinner hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church. Some of the kids choose to hand deliver the blanket and note.
In her letter, sixth-grader Malia Hebert wrote: “There is someone in the world that cares.”
Other messages read, “You are a sprout that bloomed in winter,” and “I know you are going through tough times.”
In Trevion’s note, he said what he would have wanted to hear when his family was without a permanent home:
“Things are going to get better. The sun will shine again. From love and hope.”