Inspired by SHANTY: A student’s perspective

Opinion / Letters by: Guest writer Sage Anderson, November 15, 2022

Northport High School ninth grader Sage Anderson, in front of his mom’s little free flower stand. Sage, who has been making the flower arrangements himself all this month, is donating any money collected at the stand to Ramon’s Place, the high school’s food pantry. Image courtesy Sarah Anderson.

A ninth grader at Northport High School, Sage Anderson was so inspired by his recent experience with Students for 60,000 and its annual SHANTY program that he took over as guest arranger at his mom’s little free flower stand in Northport Village. For the month of November, all donations collected at the stand will go to Ramon’s Place, the Northport High School food pantry. To celebrate and honor Sage’s learning through service, the Journal has decided to make its first donation, part of the Northport Journal Pledge, to Ramon’s Place. Read about Sage’s experience, in his own words, below.

I joined Students for 60,000 this fall after hearing about all the impactful projects that they have participated in throughout the years. Students for 60,000 is a school-based club advised by Darryl St. George which focuses on helping people in need across the country and the world. It gets its name from the NYC homeless census number from when the club was founded. The club continues to have a large impact to this day. The most recent event that has been held is called SHANTY, which is a locally based fundraiser.

SHANTY, or Sheltering the Homeless and Needy This Year, is an activity in which students try to simulate homelessness by sleeping outside in a box for one night at Northport High School. The purpose is to create empathy in the students so they can understand the hardships that so many people have to deal with daily. Each student raised a minimum of $100 which will help fund local food pantries and food banks throughout Long Island.

The event was held on the evening of November 4. People started arriving around seven o’clock and immediately began to set up boxes in front of the school. After some short games and icebreakers, we headed to the school’s smaller auditorium to listen to three motivational speakers talk on the matters of homelessness. The first two speakers talked about their experiences helping the homeless through outreach and supply runs. The final speaker was Peter White, a former teacher at Northport High School who founded Students for 60,000. He congratulated us on our work and informed students about the origins of SHANTY.

After the speakers finished their talks, we headed outside to begin the simulation. We were fortunate to have mild weather as it was in the high fifties. All students were served dinner in a paper bag that consisted of chips, an apple, and a sandwich. The simplicity of the meal was meant to mirror the kind of food that would be given out at a shelter or food bank. Students then had some time to talk with friends and get their things together before finally settling down at around 11pm. I crawled into my box, which was equipped with only a pillow and a sleeping bag. The cramped space provided little comfort or space for privacy. I eventually fell asleep as the night wore on.

We were then woken up at 6am. We broke down our boxes and students left with their families to return to their warm homes. The unfortunate reality is that many people don’t have such luxuries, as there is no home for them to return to.

The SHANTY experience was a memorable one. That memory will help me in the future as I join new Students for 60,000 projects with an awareness of the hardships people face every night.

A picture of this year’s SHANTY, an event in which students try to simulate homelessness by sleeping outside in a box for one night. Image via SF60K.