The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

Ms. Day speaks to Hockaday students as well as other students in the Dallas area as part of her role to involve Hockaday students in the community and lead them to fulfill their purpose.
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Students Sleep for a Cause

12+a.m.+Nov.+19.%0APenelope+Picagli%2C+asleep+in+the+center%2C+simulated+what+it+would+be+like+to+sleep+on+the+streets.+Photo+provided+by+Promise+House
12 a.m. Nov. 19. Penelope Picagli, asleep in the center, simulated what it would be like to sleep on the streets. Photo provided by Promise House

Upper School students experience homelessness to raise money for Promise House.

Most people wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to leave the comfort of their warm, cozy bed and sleep outside on concrete in the middle of November. However, freshmen Avery Sahm, Audrey Van Den Branden and Penelope Piccagli, along with Penelope’s mother Stacy Piccagli, decided to do just that. On Thursday, Nov. 19, Promise House, one of Dallas’s emergency and transitional living shelters for young children and adolescents, held a sleep out called A Night Under the Stars.

After hearing about the event from her mother, Penelope Piccagli asked three of her friends to join, and the five of them signed up together. Additionally, the group was able to raise $5,000 for the shelter, which is the minimum amount that Promise House encouraged sleepers to contribute prior to the sleep out.

“Originally, we were just supposed to donate, but I wanted to be involved,” Penelope Piccagli said. “I talked to a few of my friends who go here, and we all went together after soccer one day.”

For 12 hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., participants spent their time learning about the problems that homeless youth face and how the community can become more involved in improving the situation. To simulate the reality of homelessness, Promise House provided sleeping bags, cardboard and beanies, although participants also had access to luxuries such as restrooms, on-site security, food and beverages.

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Furthermore, the shelter catered a dinner from Blue Mesa Grill, and those present had the opportunity to listen to speeches by both the organization’s President Dr. Ashley Lind and a previous Promise House client. Participants also enjoyed a live band performance from Revolution 9 and discussed homelessness while sitting around fire pits.

Communications Manager Ginny Martin, who has been working with Promise House for approximately four years, believes that such an event is a valuable way to “raise awareness for homeless and abused youth” and can provide individuals with unique opportunities.

“It’s by no means what homeless youth experience each night, but it is a way to simulate a little bit of what they go through,” she said.

There are currently 1,246 known homeless children in Dallas, according to the 2015 Homeless Count and Survey Report conducted by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. Therefore, the funds collected will have a beneficial impact on the shelter, as it can only hold about 30 individuals at the moment.

“[The sleep out] is a really easy way for people to get involved,” Martin said. “With people doing personal fundraising, it gave us 625 new contacts who didn’t know about Promise House, and we also raised $86,000.”

Although Promise House and Hockaday have established a relationship over the past five years, Director of Service Learning Laura Day did not announce the Sleep Out event to the Hockaday community due to Promise House’s request that the sleepers raise a minimum of $5,000 prior to Nov. 19.

Upon hearing about the group’s decision to participate in the event, Hockaday’s Director of Service Learning Laura Day was impressed about the girl’s passion for their community.

“I was pumped that freshmen on their own were doing it,” she said. “I was actually very happy when I heard that. It’s awesome that the younger people are thinking about doing it.”

Stacy Piccagli shared Day’s sentiment, and is proud of both the girls and the organization for this initiative.

“I think it says that these girls were willing to step outside of their comfort zone and see a different situation than where they are,” she said. “They were willing to do it not only because they’re friends, but because they felt it was a good cause, and they wanted to see what it was all about, so their curiosity level was up.”

Aside from the experience of sleeping on concrete, participants were educated about Promise House’s mission and the difficulties of homelessness. To Stacy Piccagli, who hadn’t heard of Promise House prior to the Sleep Out, the event certainly raised awareness about the organization.

“When we got there, they took [the girls] through a simulation where they would experience what it would be like to basically have Child Protective Services drop you off at this place, or your school bring you there, or you’re a runaway and someone grabs you and brought you there,” she said.

Piccagli explained that the Promise House employees then posed various questions such as, “Have you ever been in school before? What’s your story? What’s your background? How can we help you get back on your feet?”

The simulation showed Stacy Piccagli and the four freshmen a very real and somewhat intimidating experience that homeless teens may endure.

“I felt like it was a good exposure for them; they didn’t really have any idea that could happen,” she said. “Coming from Hockaday, it’s just a totally different scenario.”

According to Penelope Piccagli, A Night Under the Stars accomplished its purpose.

“It’s life-changing to see how people in Dallas so close to us live in comparison,” she said. “It was fun, but living like that would be really hard.”

By taking part in events such as the Promise House Sleep Out, people can begin to understand something they may have never known before.

“I am a big fan of getting out of your comfort zone because I think there is only the potential for growth,” Day said. “If you can shake your life up a little bit, I think it’s super important.”

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