Students from Bishop’s and other local schools pitch ideas to help homeless people

Bishop’s School students Simmons Arnold and Charlie Johnson speak about their proposal to help homeless people.
Bishop’s School students Simmons Arnold and Charlie Johnson speak about their proposal to help homeless people in San Diego during the first Homelessness Innovation Challenge at Bishop’s in La Jolla.
(Kristian Carreon)

Hoodies to raise money, protein bars, showers and phone apps to connect with services were among the ideas to help homeless people that high school students pitched in a contest this week at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

The Lucky Duck Foundation’s first Homelessness Innovation Challenge was held May 2, with students pitching ideas in a “Shark Tank”-type setting to members of the foundation.

Student participants were members of Lucky Duck chapters from Bishop’s, Canyon Crest Academy and Cathedral Catholic and Torrey Pines high schools. Ideas were pitched to a four-person panel representing the foundation.

From The Bishop’s School, students Simmons Arnold, Lyle LaRocca, Peyten Seltzer, Charlie Johnson and Elias Herrera proposed creating an app and a website that would help youths aging out of the foster care system find resources that could help them with personal finances, job placement, mentors and shelters if needed.

Students said there is a need for their project because a disproportionately high number of foster youths become homeless after leaving the system.

Canyon Crest students Lily Khabie, Owen Reily and Tiana Vahidi proposed making hoodies featuring artwork created by a homeless person to sell and raise money for feminine hygiene products.

Women living on the street or in shelters often can’t afford or don’t have access to the products, sometimes putting their health at risk, students said.

Torrey Pines students Lexi Moran, Brenna Hall, James Carnahan, Lexi Lamb and Sofie Brown pitched a project that would provide showers and hygiene to unsheltered people and help them benefit from technology that can help them create resumés and cover letters for job opportunities.

Students said being clean for a job interview is essential to gaining employment and that the groups Showers of Blessings and Humanity Showers have expressed interest in partnering with them.

Cathedral Catholic students Kayla Mendes, Ava Stoddard, Xani Peña and Frank Sciarrino pitched “Buddy Bars,” protein bars that would be distributed to people on the street.

Students said their research indicated that many unsheltered homeless people do not eat nutritious food. The plan includes selling the bars to the public, with one free bar given to a homeless person for every bar sold.

Drew Moser, Stephanie Kilkenny, Dan Novak and Lori Walton serve as judges during the Homelessness Innovation Challenge.
Drew Moser, executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation; Stephanie Kilkenny, co-founder and president of the foundation; and board members Dan Novak and Lori Walton serve as judges during the first Homelessness Innovation Challenge at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla on May 2.
(Kristian Carreon)

The judges panel consisted of Lucky Duck Executive Director Drew Moser, foundation board members Dan Novak and Lori Walton, and Stephanie Kilkenny, who started the foundation with her husband, Pat.

The winning proposal would be eligible for $20,000 in funding from the Lucky Duck Foundation, which has funded a large industrial tent shelter, food and water outreach programs, job training and employment programs and other efforts to help local homeless people.

No team walked away with the money at the end of the session, but no team was eliminated either.

Moser said the $20,000 remains committed to the initiative and that the teams will have the opportunity to have a working session with the foundation to further vet their ideas.

“I hope that doesn’t leave someone disappointed,” he said. “Speaking for the four of us, we’re really encouraged. And frankly, this is the process of awarding funding a lot of the times. It’s not one meeting and here’s a check. It’s really digging in and understanding what the opportunities are.”

Moser said the judges found the presentations positive and inspiring but that they wanted to learn more the projects, determine whether they would duplicate something that already exists and help connect them with groups that could assist. ◆