Will Write For Food 2013: In Review
When 20 students descended to the COSAC Shelter in Hollywood, Fla. over Labor Day weekend, they didn’t just do as the homeless did, they changed.
They got out of their bubble of college life. Many got out of their bubble of a sheltered life, having never actually been around homeless people before. A few students admitted they had volunteered in shelters before and are aware of conditions. Most, though, had no idea what they signed up for.
After arriving at the Ramada Inn in Downtown Hollywood on Aug. 31, students and advisers met in one of the hotel conference rooms for the first staff meeting of the weekend. When the Will Write For Food program began five years ago, program creators had to beg students participate. Since then, they’ve had to turn down dozens of students all across the country. Less than two dozen students were accepted each year.
When the staff meeting was adjourned, students and advisers carpooled to the COSAC shelter to dine with the residents and visitors for their evening meals. Some residents, unaware of the weekend festivities, rushed through dinner to get away from the student visitors. Others were happy to talk to them about their lives, including their time before living in the shelter.
After dinner, student groups took turns taking tours of the shelter. At the end of the night, students shared their observations and interviews, staking claim on the stories they want to cover. Returning to the Ramada Inn, some students flocked to the downtown Hollywood nightlife, others stayed in.
On Sunday morning, they hauled over to the makeshift COSAC newsroom for the 9 a.m. staff meeting. They reviewed story ideas, hashed out details and some even changed pitches entirely from the night before. There was no wrong way to get a story to the editor, just many multiple right ways.
After the staff meeting, some stayed to interview COSAC Founder/Director Sean Cononie while others took to shelter residents, employees and visitors for interviews.
The first done with their assignment was Gianna DeLannoy with her video on The Homeless Chef. DeLannoy, a Cypress Bay high school student, is the first and only high schooler to apply for Will Write For Food. The rest, college students, came from as far away as Arizona.
The copy flowed in well into the night, with the last group leaving around 7 a.m. on Labor Day. One of the last students out, Malorie Paine, says the experience was more than she could’ve ever imagined.
“Writing and designing for The Homeless Voice tops any other thing I’ve done in the short 22 years of my life, and it’s for sure going to be a tough one to beat.”
Want to spend Labor Day in a homeless shelter? Apply here.