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After walking several blocks down Greenwich Avenue on a rainy spring night, I see bright light glowing from Le Pain Quotidien. The cafe is packed with middle school students, their friends, and parents.

I’ve come to find Simon H, a 6th grader at the Whitby School in Greenwich. I don’t know what he looks like or where he is in the crowd. But I do know that as part of a social awareness project, Simon visited New Covenant Center (NCC), a Catholic Charities’ soup kitchen and pantry in Stamford.

The project, called “Photo Voice,” is a participatory action research engagement for which the students are required to scope the landscape of their community and take photographs of things they see that stir a concern in them…concern that could ultimately lead to social action that changes the status quo.

Whitby School student Simon H displaying his "Photo Voice" project at Le Pain Quotidien.

Whitby School student Simon H displaying his “Photo Voice” project at Le Pain Quotidien.

While searching for a topic, Simon stumbled upon New Covenant Center’s website. His curiosity piqued, he asked his mother to take him to NCC to check it out. He admitted that originally he was just going through the motions of completing a school project by visiting NCC. But after touring the center, he started to feel differently. “I got a lot more sympathy for the hungry and the homeless. I thought I could help and I was motivated to do something,” he explained.

But can a 12 year-old really make a difference when it comes to social concerns? Simon thinks…it depends.

“If you’re a 12 year-old who thinks you want to change something but doesn’t go for it – you don’t email or call etc – then you don’t make a difference. But if you have the mindset that you are going to do something, and you are going to pursue it, then you can get something done. Even writing and passing out petitions can help.”

Simon credits his classmates for producing compelling photo essays as well saying,
“Everyone really got their messages across – they all wanted to show something, just to make people aware.”

So did the visit to New Covenant Center change Simon’s mindset? Here’s what this 6th grader thinks: “I got a lot more sympathy for the hungry and the homeless. I thought I could help them, and I was empowered to make a change.”

To learn more about New Covenant Center and The Whitby School go to: www.newcovenantcenter.org or www.whitbyschool.org.