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April 29, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 16

Extra Credit

What started as a class project has now moved well beyond the classroom.

In the fall 2002 semester, Asst. Prof. Paula Mathieu (English) took students in her Literature of the Homeless class to a Waltham shelter for homeless families, where the seven undergraduates - along with three graduate students - worked with children living in the shelter, tutoring them in subjects like creative writing and reading and helping them finish their homework.

Mathieu and her students eventually helped the children to publish a special volume of their writing, Kids 2 Cents, as a way to raise public awareness of the growing population of homeless children and to share their creativity and spirit with the world.

Today, the second edition of Kids 2 Cents is scheduled to roll out - but this time there is no academic credit involved.

"It's completely a voluntary project," said Mathieu, who is being aided by 10 undergraduates and four English master's degree students. "Some volunteers are former students in the Homeless Literature course, others are graduate students with whom I've worked, still others are freshmen from first-year writing courses."

As with the first volume, Mathieu says, BC students contributed some pieces for the new Kids 2 Cents. One wrote an interview with her own mother, who spent some of her childhood homeless. Others researched information about homeless families in Massachusetts.

"These students are involved in doing important work to help educate the public about homelessness," said Mathieu, who is trustee and head of the editorial committee of Spare Change, a newspaper published every other week by the Homeless Empowerment Project in Cambridge, which has assisted in printing Kids 2 Cents.

"By combining information and researched articles with the real stories and pictures of children who are homeless, we hope to help the reading public understand homelessness not as an abstraction but as a real problem that affects real lives."

Since the children who helped author the first volume have left the shelter - hopefully for permanent housing - Mathieu says it's difficult to know what they thought of the experience. However, she added, "we do know from the shelter that some of the kids and moms were happy to sign permission forms to have their child's work published, even after they moved out."

-Sean Smith

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