This year I worked with students, teachers, and community members to raise awareness and funds for the YWCA family center. We ran an event at Jeffrey Park called the Bexley Sleep Out, where members of the community joined us for music, food, camp fires, and a night in tents to raise awareness of homelessness and raise funds. This is our second year of the now annual event. The Bexley Sleep Out became a school club this year and we spent months sending emails, making phone calls, and having meetings to prepare for this event. This event was organized almost entirely by students. We formed small committee’s to accomplish different tasks. Jackson Lee (senior), Max Lehman (senior), and Simon Luscher (senior) spent a lot of time getting together the food and entertainment plans. Next year when these seniors are graduated the underclassmen will take over. These underclassmen, like myself, helped a lot also. Evie Lewis (freshman) and William Brotherton (freshman) did a lot of the marketing design for the event this year. Delia Grantham (sophomore) did a lot of the publicity for the event.

I followed Annalise Phelps, the head of the Bexley Sleep Out, and Anna Schottenstein (Ms. Schotty), our teacher and club adviser, to meetings and helped out almost as a trainee in hopes of taking over the event next year when Annalise graduates. It was a great experience to be a part of a club that’s making an impact. When we first toured the YWCA family center, we knew we wanted them to be our beneficiary because of the focus they put on children and helping these families get back on their feet. The center is more than just a place to stay, it is a temporary home. The staff at the YWCA family center provide food, shelter, job search assistance, home search assistance and child care for the families in need. They really put an effort to make sure the children are still able to get a stable education and be with their friends at school during the hard times in their lives. This year we raised over $4,000 and had around 200 attendee’s at the event.

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We kicked off the event around 5:00 with the Bexley High School drumline. Bexley Mayor, Ben Kessler was a huge help with planning and organization. He also grilled up the hot dogs and hamburgers, donated by The Top steak house. We had a performance from the Capital University A Capella group, the Capatones. One of the biggest hits of the night was the Jazzercise class conducted by the Bexley High School Spanish teacher, Profe Higgens. Through out the night we sold Johnson’s ice cream, baked goods, Frost Top root beer, S’mores, and walking tacos at midnight. Almost all of the food and supplies were donated by businesses around the area and clubs from the school. We also had a raffle with items donated from places like Vineyard Vines, Jeni’s ice cream, Bath and Body works and more. We continued the night with performances from a student band, Wrath of Wednesday and yoga under the stars from our English teacher, Julie Horger. Angela Stoller-Zervas, the director of the YWCA family center came and spoke on behalf of the center to explain what they do and how we have helped. We also had Columbus city councilman, Michael Stinziano speak about the efforts Columbus has been making to fight homelessness. As the sun went down people trickled off and we started calming down with a performance by the high school Jazz band. Some people turned into their tents for the night around 11pm or 12. Others, like Ms. Schotty and a few students stayed up all night long. I slept from around 1am-4am. I had to be awake at 4 because the news came around 4:30. I was interviewed a total of 8 times. The story aired in multiple short clips. Here’s one story:  NBC 4 News Report

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The turn out of the event was amazing and we all had a great time. Whether it was roasting hot dogs or s’mores, they both tasted great at 5am. The cold night was an eye opening experience. We were cold even with all our warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, and tents. It’s hard to imagine a life where you spend everyday in the rough environment without all these luxuries. I hope that our event will help people realize that we are surrounded by people who are struggling. We live in a privileged community, it’s easy to slip into what is known as the “Bexley Bubble”. Events like this help us notice the world around us and make an effort to help those who are less fortunate. Awareness and funds were the goals of our efforts, but they were not the only thing we accomplished.

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Students like myself who were involved in planning this event learned leadership skills, event planning, and organizational skills that we can’t learn in a class setting. Events like the Bexley Sleep Out are what build growing students in excited leaders. I can’t wait to begin planing for next year. I hope that each year we can continue to grow this event to raise event more funds and spread awareness to an even greater number of people.

I would really like to thank everyone who made this possible, the businesses who donated, the people who came, the Mayor of Bexley and all his support. The greatest thanks I have to give is to Ms. Schotty. She is more than just a teacher. She is a mentor, a friend, and a nurturer of young leaders. She helps plant the seed in us to grow as students and leaders. When Annalise came to Ms. Schotty with a big idea, she could have said no, said that it was too big and too much work. But she didn’t. She said Okay and helped make the necessary phone calls to get this event going.

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