Mount Aloysius students were at the mercy of the elements Wednesday night as they camped out at the Ihmsen Residence Hall breezeway in Cresson.
Despite temperatures in the 20s, students camped out to raise awareness of homelessness as part of the National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, freshman Michaela Patton said.
"Homeless people don't really get to pick their conditions," Patton said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State Altoona members of B.U.S.T. (Being United for Social Transformation), from left, Chrislee Clifford, Ross Flynn, Nick Burick, Alyssa Gubicza and Joe Scott construct a cardboard shelter in a campus pavilion Wednesday evening.
The week before Thanksgiving is dedicated to raising awareness of homeless individuals and the challenges they face while increasing the community's engagement and aid efforts, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
On the Cresson campus, Patton worked with classmates Ciera Venturato and Andrea Butler to organize the event. All three students receive credit toward completing their cultural literacy course requirements for community service projects, Patton said.
About 35 students signed up to attend the campout, she said. Students were allowed to bundle up in any ways possible but had to incorporate a cardboard box into their sleeping arrangements for the night.
At Penn State Altoona, students planned Wednesday night to inhabit their own "cardboard city campout."
The event helps to raise awareness of homeless individuals, but students also use the event as a fundraiser to collect nonperishable foods and goods to donate to local food banks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Altoona College student Chrislee Clifford said.
"It was an eye-opener," Clifford said about last year's campout.
Students enrolled at the Mount Aloysius Mercy Presidential Scholars program attended a "hunger banquet" event on campus Tuesday, Sister Nancy Donovan of the Sisters of Mercy said. The students were assigned fictional economic groups and then fed meals according to their economic status - with the students assigned to the low-income bracket served a small bowl of rice without any eating utensils.
"It made me thankful for the life that I have," sophomore Tiffany Clingerman said.
The students saw the global impact of hunger and homelessness during the exercise, Donovan said. Students in the fictional "upper class" groups only made $12,000 a year, well below standards in the U.S., she said
Combining the hunger banquet and campout allowed students to experience the struggles homeless individuals face first-hand, Patton said. Before their campout, participants watched a movie documenting real-life stories of homeless individuals, Donovan said.
"We kind of tied our two ideas together. That way it could be a bigger project," Patton said.
Penn State Altoona students from Being United for Social Transformation researched homelessness in the U.S., Clifford said. The group and other students involved in the campout planned to have a discussion Wednesday night as they braved the weather.
No matter how cold the weather gets, students will not understand the enormity challenges homeless individuals face, Clifford said.
"You can't compare it to reality," she said.