Magazine article Momentum

Archbishop Hoban Students Make HOPE Happen in Akron

Magazine article Momentum

Archbishop Hoban Students Make HOPE Happen in Akron

Article excerpt

Cold Wednesday nights in Akron provide a great experience for high school students to practice Catholic social teaching

Temperatures straddle between negative and positive one degree and the sting begins to penetrate our double-socked toes. The cold is relentless, pure misery, but our souls couldn't be warmer. We are two teachers and eight students, and we're playing hooky from homework on this Wednesday night so that we can spend it with our friends who live homeless on the streets of Akron, Ohio.

We are armed with smiles and open arms, embracing people who often get passed without a second thought. We are Archbishop Hoban High School's Project HOPE, and our mission is to treat others with dignity and recognize the humanity in all people.

Started in September 2009, Project HOPE has gained a strong foundation of committed and selfless students who are willing to spend their Wednesdays displaying loving kindness. personifying the ways of Jesus. The Hoban students make HOPE happen. They leap from the van and call out to their friends by name. Jimmy, Denny, Michael, Muscles and Mama wait in anticipation for our arrival, and the spark of hope ignites when our students start up rich conversations that build warmth that no frigid wind can cool. HOPE has amassed a sort of waiting list, and we often get an earful from a student if he or she hasn't gotten to venture out with us in a while.

Project HOPE knows no censorship. Students experience the streets of Akron in raw detail. They experience the forgotten who live in tent cities along the railroads. They witness the pain that weighs on the shoulders of those sleeping in cold building entryways and, in response, Hoban students rise to the occasion, engaging often lonely souls with a caring ear and genuine positivity.

The evening starts in the Hoban kitchen. Students make sandwiches, warm pizza and pasta, bag chips, cook soup and prepare any other item that might be on that evening's menu. For an hour, the kitchen becomes an elaborate mix of chaos. At the same time, the chaos fosters collaboration and builds camaraderie.

Once the menu has been completed and the crates of food have been loaded into the van, my colleague Jason and I lead the students to the chapel, where we take time to recalibrate our often stressed minds to a calm focus on the night's purpose.

Once in tune with the mission, we wrap ourselves in layers of clothing to protect us from the cold and jump in the van. Certainly we bring food and warm clothing, but we focus mainly on engagement- listening, learning names, providing smiles. Our first stop is Mr. Lucas and his dogs, Spanky and Mozart. The students crowd around as Mr. Lucas opens the conversation with talk of Hoban basketball. He follows the Hoban teams faithfully on his radio. The students feel a special bond with Lucas because he's a Hoban graduate-he's one of us. After some good laughs and love, he bids us goodnight. Gratitude can be heard in every syllable.

The night continues with an adventuresome mix of a trek through the woods for friends living in tents and friends who find shelter in secluded downtown crevices. …

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