DENVER — Students at STRIVE Prep - RISE in northeast Denver have been trying to make a difference for the past five years through a social justice program called “Intercession Week." The program is a four-day learning experience and this year, the students addressed the issue of people experiencing homelessness.
“In the past years, we’ve done environmental justice [and] we’ve done mass incarceration,” senior Litzy Lujan said. “This year, we’ve decided to do homelessness because it is a topic that we feel that needed to be more talked about by high school students.”
The group of 30 students conducted interviews and created a "Humans of Denver'' Instagram page. Their hope is that seeing the stories of people experiencing homelessness on social media will give more teens perspective.
“We wanted to do something that high school students could feel a part of,” Lujan said. “We know that social media is a big part for high school students, and we thought that bringing the topic on social media would be the easiest and most effective way for [them] to get involved with this topic.”
The school said the experience was an opportunity for students to learn first-hand what people experiencing homelessness go through.
“We wanted to empower our scholars to be social justice, civic-minded individuals who care about their community and are compassionate and responsible,” said the school’s Chief Academic Officer Elisha Roberts. “There’s an underlying presence of these issues whether they are talked about in our communities or not, and so I think it’s important that our scholars have the language to talk about what they’re seeing and/or are experiencing.”
Roberts was one of the founding principals of the school and helped start several of the school’s social justice programs. She said the more that the school can bring these types of programming to students the more they have a voice.
“It means our communities will be better the more that our youth are engaged in them and having a voice in making the change that they want to see,” Roberts said.
“I feel like the more attention it gets, the better,” added senior Sam Garfio. “People experiencing homelessness, they’re often ignored and it’s a real issue going on right now.”
The students said they think its important to bring an awareness to these social justice issues and get more teens involved in spreading the word.
“I wish more schools were able to do something like this,” Lujan said. “Because it’s important for younger audiences and just high school students in general to learn about these things.”