Students Experience Homelessness at Valencia East Sleep Out Event


Sam Schaffer

Widalys Rodriguez performs her original piece, “Rainforest,” at Valencia College’s Sleep Out for Homeless Youth.

Sam Schaffer, Contributing Writer


Students and faculty on East Campus slept under the stars Monday night to spread awareness about youth homelessness.

Valencia’s Sleep Out event had two purposes: raise awareness about youth homelessness and raise funds to donate to the Covenant house, a shelter for 18-21 year olds that are homeless or at great risk. Donations were made in person, by dropping off an envelope in 4-212, or online, by going to the Valencia Sleep Out page on

Bruno Basso, the event planner, said that the goal was to raise $10,000 to donate to the Covenant House where they have set up a budget to renovate their GED classroom. They plan to get new furniture, desks, computers, software and a McGraw Hill online tracking system that will allow teachers to have more one-on-one time with students.

“I’m out here supporting the homeless shelter that I live in and I’m encouraging other youth to support the homeless shelter,” explains Earl Ricketts. “There is kids out here that are struggling to live, there’s people living out in the woods, it’s hard for kids out here.” The Covenant house helps Earl and many other homeless youth with college tuition and money for books. Ricketts has lived at the shelter since his mom kicked him out at age 19. Ricketts performed a magic act at the end of the formal event.

Phi Theta Kappa organized the Sleep Out with help from Student Development and Campus Administration, but they were not the only Valencia organizations involved in the event. The Peace and Justice Institute, Valencia Volunteers, Valencia Movie Production club, and many other clubs and organizations hosted information tables around the check-in table. Each information table gave out information on different demographics of homelessness, like senior citizen homelessness, or family homelessness.

In addition to the demographic tables, the Covenant House and IDignity, described in their pamphlet as “a charity that assists the local poor in obtaining crucial identification…at no cost to [their] clients,” also hosted tables at the information station. The Covenant House gave out general information about how they help the community, IDignity did the same, but stressed the importance government ID’s in Florida as well.

Sleepers checked in at six in the evening and browsed the Information Station, info-tables set up around check-in, learning about the prevalence and struggles of homelessness and gathering stamps to cash-in at Chick-Fil-A.

After making their rounds at the info stations, many students congregated in the Building Three Atrium to watch Valencia students perform. Among the performers were Widlays Rodriguez, who performed a piece called Rain Forest that she choreographed herself, and Tyson Tufi who performed an original spoken word piece called Adversity.

The formal event took place from seven to nine and included speeches from the host, Dean of Learning Support Dr. Leonard Bass, Campus President Dr. Stacey Johnson, Covenant house Director Maria Shorkey and many more. Christina Burkenroad of the Orlando Pride also spoke about her experiences of being homeless in high school.

The speeches were followed by a candle light vigil and then sleepers prepared for the night. Cardboard boxes and sleeping bags filled with students littered the mall area for the night as students got a small taste of what it’s like to be homeless.