In November 2018, Sarah Doris, Brittany LaFond and six other Kankakee Community College students found cardboard and blankets, and tested themselves against the elements for a night.
Doris and LaFond organized the event, and invited the others to stay out as long as they wanted. The temperature dipped to 29 degrees. The winds gusted a bit. The fire didn’t make it through the night. Neither did some of the students.
“We went into this event with the intention of raising money for Fortitude (a community outreach center) and educating the public on the homeless experience,” Doris said. “While we did indeed do that, we also learned something ourselves. While we all knew that we could go home in the morning or warm up in the school if we got cold in the night, the homeless are not so fortunate.
“It was quite an eye-opening experience for everyone involved and I hope our contributions helped in whatever way possible. I’m extremely grateful to have participated in this event and encourage everyone who is able to support Fortitude and other local organizations that help the homeless in our area and provide them with the resources that they so desperately need.”
KCC’s sleep out event raised more than $300 for Fortitude Community Outreach, a local non-profit organization. Fortitude began in January 2017 as a street outreach designed to connect needy and homeless individuals with resources and assistance. In January 2019, Fortitude opened a rotating site overnight shelter, available from October through April.
The Sleep Out event was one of a number of activities Doris and LaFond conducted as co-chairs of “Promoting Awareness to Transform Society’s Views About Homelessness.” It was a semester-long honors project for the KCC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students.
In addition to conducting research on homelessness, the chapter also invited Fortitude’s director, Dr. Dawn Broers, to be part of a forum at KCC about homelessness.
For their efforts on this project and other work, KCC’s Alpha Delta Eta Chapter received two Phi Theta Kappa regional awards in Champaign on Saturday, June 1; and two international awards at the annual convention of Phi Theta Kappa in Orlando, Florida in April.
At the regional level, KCC’s chapter received the Most Distinguished Honors In Action Project Award and the Outstanding Chapter Officer Team Award.
At the International convention, KCC’s chapter received a Theme Award, focusing on Theme 2: “Economies of Everything,” and was one of 50 Distinguished Project Awards under the Honors Program topic of “Transformations: Acknowledging, Assessing and Achieving Change.”
The KCC students’ work also was selected from 469 entries to become one of only 16 articles in the 2019 edition of Civic Scholar: Phi Theta Kappa Journal of Undergraduate Research.
“We are proud of the substantive, interesting work represented by Alpha Delta Eta’s entry and look forward to sharing it through Civic Scholar with the community college world,” said Susan Edwards, associate vice president of honors programming and undergraduate research for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
The 2019 journal was published in print and posted online at the end of May.
Doris and LaFond both graduated from KCC at the end of the Spring 2019 semester. Doris will attend Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to work toward a pre-veterinary medicine bachelor’s degree. LaFond will attend Governors State University in University Park and will pursue a degree in English.
Phi Theta Kappa has recognized academic achievement at associate degree-granting colleges since 1918. It also is the largest honor society in American higher education, with more than 3.5 million members and 1,283 chapters in 10 nations.
The society offers opportunities for scholarships, intellectual enrichment, and personal development through programs based on the society’s hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. To be eligible for membership, students must have a 3.5 grade point average or better on a 4.0 scale.