The average age of a homeless Chicagoan is 11...

The average age of a homeless Chicagoan is 11...

Over two weeks at the end of the school year, most sixth, seventh, and eighth graders participate in May Service Learning experiences. To put their expectation into context and reflect back on the work, the students participate in pre- and post-visit reflections.

One group prepares and serves a meal to the homeless at Matthew House, a community-based organization in Bronzeville that provides food, daytime shelter, and support services. While there, the nonprofit's director of development asks the students to guess the average age of a homeless Chicagoan.

The surprising answer—11—hits close to home. They begin the day with one concept of homelessness, but leave with a more realistic perception.

Other activities include: visiting Growing Power's Iron Street Farm to help harvest and weed; processing and organizing donations at Open Book; pitching in with aquaponic farm maintenance and composting at The Plant; and helping the Chicago Park District clean Washington Park.

Like those at Matthew House, the group on a cleaning spree at Gilda's Club are surprised to learn the extent to which youth are affected by cancer: the facility has a children's art room, a teen room, and a playroom for younger kids.

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