Sister Linda Bessom SND of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (Lynn) paid an early visit to St. Mary’s High School on May 15, but students made sure it was well worth her while.
St. Mary’s students who participate in Rachel’s Challenge – a service organization named for the first person killed in the Columbine High School massacre – presented Sister Bessom a check for $3,000 to be used for the coalition’s A Bed for Every Child Initiative.
The money was raised through fundraisers, a Red Sox ticket raffle (tickets donated by Dr. Lee Orlandi) and the Hunger for Justice Project held at the school during Holy Week.
Sister Bessom told the three dozen students gathered in the O’Brien Lecture Hall that their donation will make an impact on the work being done by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, which partners with public schools to assist at-risk families of students to avoid becoming homelessness.
“Imagine studying hard for a test in school, and coming to school the next day extremely tired because you were not able to get a good night’s sleep. Do you think you will do well on the test; will you be able to focus on the learning for the day?” asked Sister Bessom, noting that coalition staff had learned that many Lynn students from low-income families were coming to school too exhausted to learn, because they did not have a bed of their own.
One of every seven children in Massachusetts is experiencing poverty. Purchasing a new bed or replacing a bed that had to be removed due to bug infestation is either out of the question, or it’s not a priority for families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. One way to break the poverty cycle is to ensure that children are able to receive a good education that will eventually enable them to graduate from high school. A bed is one of those basic tools to assist children to come to school rested, so that they will be better able to focus on their learning.
Sister Bessom noted that last year Lynn was fourth among cities with the largest number of children experiencing homelessness and second highest in unaccompanied youth (under 22 years old) who are homeless and on their own.
The Rachel’s Challenge group raised money throughout the year, while some of the money raised at Hunger for Justice was donated as well, according to Andrea Alberti, who serves as campus minister at St. Mary’s along with Chris Carmody. At that event, 200 youth from a dozen North Shore parishes give up food and shelter for 30 hours and participate in service activities, including handing out food to the homeless. Money is raised through participants getting sponsors to support their efforts.
St. Mary’s formed a Rachel’s Challenge group in 2007. The staff advisors are Alberti, Carmody, Lisa Morin-Plante, Jade Henne, Maria Sullivan, Rachel Henry and Pat Gill. Students meet at 7:15 a.m. every Tuesday and participate in a variety of community-service projects.
To become involved with A Bed for Every Child Initiative, please contact Sister Linda Bessom at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, 15 Bubier St., Lynn, at 781-595-7570 x18.