By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent November 28, 2012 4:16PM
Calumet College of St. Jospeh students James Davidson, Jessica Compton (in box), and Samantha Gillinger make an overnight shelter of cardboard at the campus in Whiting, Ind. | Anthony D. Alonzo~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 28, 2012 4:16PM
Dozens of Calumet College of St. Joseph students went all out — camping out on a chilly night in cardboard shelters — to call attention to today’s problems of hunger and homelessness.
On the evening of Friday, Nov. 9, members of CCSJ student groups such as G.I.V.E. and the drama club donned their cold-weather apparel to construct a makeshift habitat for themselves made of cardboard boxes. Adjacent to the Whiting campus’ main building, Alumni Park was abuzz with activities that were part of the immersive charitable endeavor.
Sponsored by the Calumet College offices of Servant Leadership and Student Life, the first effort of its kind helped students to go beyond ambiguous issues and to work with other concerned individuals.
“I think that more than anything what excites me is the idea of the awareness that we’re creating,” said Darren Rogers, an English major. “It’s definitely a prevalent issue right now — and the more that people see, the more realistic it is.”
Nicholas Castillo decided to attend the camp-out when he heard about it from an instructor. His girlfriend Carmen Cordova, of Hammond, agreed to go along and help construct a cardboard shanty.
“I thought like a homeless person: what would one really need?” said Castillo, a psychology major. “I thought of cardboard boxes. And we used duct tape for sure.”
Though he and Cordova were ready to deal with a night of nippy temperatures, he said, “it would suck” to really be homeless. They said they’d be up for the 5 a.m. group picture and perhaps earn the best box design award.
CCSJ’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week included a food drive to stock the school’s food pantry and a day of service at the Sojourner Truth House in Gary.
A new initiative called the Indiana Campus Compact has helped boost the civic engagement of students at colleges and universities throughout the state, according to Kristy Donley, CCSJ coordinator of internships and experiential learning.
“We’ve had a ton of community service coming out of CCSJ,” said Donley, with student government president Dino Ramirez looking on. “Our membership with (the ICC) helped us create a main hub called the Office of Servant Leadership . . . we’re creating more opportunities, but we’re also figuring out what everybody at the college is doing.”
Some students utilized the outdoor project to work toward fulfilling their 10 hours of service learning, a requirement for graduation at Calumet College.
Dado Gyure was set to deliver remarks about homelessness. The Whiting-based actress and CCSJ alumna said she’s noticed impoverished people finding temporary shelter in Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive, as well as in the Skid Row area when she lived in Los Angeles.
Wearing their event bracelets — “Food Fight for Hunger 2012” — students James Davidson, Jessica Compton, Samantha Gillinger, Patricia Moya and Carena Acevedo worked on their shelters.
Gillinger reflected on how today’s graduates are finding it difficult to secure employment.
“It’s not going to be easy for our generation,” she said.
Sherree Jones, a criminal justice and forensic science major, manned the sign-in desk where canned foods were collected.
“Even though we are struggling college students we often take for granted the little small things we do have, whereas we may see a homeless person and realize they don’t have anything,” Jones said. “In these days and times we’re just a crumb away from being homeless ourselves. It can happen to anybody.”