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Eblen Students Fight to End Homelessness
Eblen Students Fight to End Homelessness
Posted on 03/25/2021
PICTURED, from left, are Sam Turbeville, Sonna Jamerson, Sophia Nerenberg, Kelly Corriher, and Allie Moore.PICTURED, from left, are Sam Turbeville, Sonna Jamerson, Sophia Nerenberg, Kelly Corriher, and Allie Moore.

By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

For three thoughtful girls at Joe P. Eblen Intermediate School (JPEIS), compassion starts young.

Sixth-graders Sophia Nerenberg, Allie Moore, and Sam Turbeville spent Tuesday and Wednesday morning assembling care packages for the unhoused population in Asheville and Buncombe County. After raising $300 from JPEIS teachers, friends and family, and the broader community, they put nonperishable food, hygiene, socks, and comfort products in Ziploc bags and delivered those bags to 12 Baskets Café on Wednesday for distribution to local folks in need.

“People without homes get overlooked, and they need help,” Sophia said. “They need compassion and to be treated as equals to everyone else.”

The project started when Sophia and Allie worked on an open-ended, student-led classroom project. They were drawn to social problems and eventually settled on homelessness. The original project involved a book and a presentation. The two girls wrote a fictionalized journal that depicted the life of a character named Lisa Hughez. The journal shows how Lisa loses her father, her home, and her security.

“I want people to see that this can happen to anyone,” Allie said. “And I want any kids who are going through it to not feel alone.”

The community service piece grew out of their interviews for the book. The girls got inspiration from Homeward Bound of WNC Executive Director Meredith Switzer and Buncombe County Early College graduate Madelyn Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt distributes care packages through her website You Got This Asheville. When Sophia and Allie interviewed Ms. Schmidt, she suggested that they too could build care packages to help locals in their time of need.

“She told us that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Sophia said. “That really stuck with me.”

The girls’ homeroom teacher, Ms. Kelly Corriher, introduced them to each other earlier in the school year, and soon they developed a friendship that became stronger through their dedication to the homelessness project. Sam joined Sophia and Allie when they started planning their care packages.

“We saw a need and a pain and wanted to do something,” Sam said. “It feels good to help others.”

“This gives me hope for the future,” said Ms. Sonna Jamerson, academically gifted teacher at JPEIS who guided the girls in their project. “They went above and beyond, creating something bigger than themselves. Seeing these students and their passion, that’s the true purpose of learning.”

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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