By: Eden Collier
When eleven students from St. Francis High School decided to band together to make a difference, we didn’t realize how much the experience would change us.
We launched Saint John’s Teen Circle two years ago to support Saint John’s Program for Real Change by volunteering at the center and organizing fundraisers and supply drives.
We started by visiting Saint John’s as a group, and spent many afternoons playing games with the children and helping them with their homework after school. Whether we were playing hide-and-seek with the younger children or shooting hoops with the older kids, we all had a great time together.
One of my favorite memories is when Teen Circle hosted a Halloween party and movie night at Saint John’s. Teen Circle members dressed up in costumes and set up a face painting station. Almost every child there wanted something painted on their face and, to my surprise, the majority of the kids wanted to be superheroes. We drew Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and Black Widow symbols on their faces. They were all so excited! It occurred to me later in the evening that the children were the real superheroes and didn’t even know it. Their strength and resilience shines through with every smile.
Over the course of our first year, Teen Circle members volunteered at the center often. By far, the most rewarding part of making a long-term commitment to Saint John’s has been the friendships we made with the children there. Seeing the same kids every week created a special bond between us.
Teen Circle also hosted a number of fundraisers to benefit Saint John’s before COVID-19. Our multi-family garage sale was a big success. And, we held two youth “Bingo Nights” and a special yoga fundraiser, with all proceeds going to Saint John’s.
Unfortunately, this past year, we have not been able to visit the Saint John’s campus due to COVID-19 restrictions. But that hasn’t stopped us from working to support Saint John’s! We recently held a winter clothing drive where Teen Circle members picked up donations of warm clothing and jackets at people’s homes and delivered them to Saint John’s.
All of us in Teen Circle have been truly inspired by our experience volunteering at Saint John’s. Getting to know the mothers and children in the program has made the tragedy of homelessness in Sacramento personal to each of us. It’s been transformative to know that by working together, we can make a meaningful contribution to Saint John’s. Along the way, we’ve gained new perspectives, a deeper sense of connection with our community and, most of all, new friends.
Eden Collier is the Secretary of Saint John’s Teen Circle and a junior at St. Francis High School.