Blessed Trinity Academy student places second in essay contest
Blessed Trinity Academy seventh-grader Ellery Kania’s passion for helping others helped her place second in the Homeless Children’s Education Fund’s annual Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Poster & Essay Contest’s writing category.
Ellery’s teacher, Denielle Grana, asked her students to write essays or depict on posters issues that children experiencing homelessness may face and how they can experience hope through learning. School representatives selected the top two entries to submit to the Diocese of Pittsburgh for further review.
Ellery and her classmates researched the Homeless Children’s Education Fund’s website to learn about the nonprofit and its mission of supporting the educational needs of Allegheny County children experiencing homelessness. Ellery also relied upon her experiences visiting the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Etna and North Hills Community Outreach’s Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Allison Park. For multiple years, she has purchase items for the food banks with saved birthday money.
“We did interact with some of the other volunteers and help stock and sort the food and they kind of gave us a tour and gave us an idea of what they do at each of those facilities,” Ellery’s mother, Michelle, said. “So, Ellery was able to connect with what she was contributing and how it was going to be distributed.”
“I get joy from helping them,” Ellery, 13, said.
When writing her essay, she “tried to see it from the child who didn’t have a home’s point of view to make it a little more personal and more informative.”
As part of her prize, Ellery joined other awardees Nov. 28 at Shepherd’s Heart Veteran’s Home, Uptown, to prepare and serve bagged lunches and speak with men experiencing homelessness and using the shelter’s drop-in program, according to Krystle Morrison, Homeless Children’s Education Fund’s educational services manager.
Ellery recalled a man who asked for an extra lunch for his preschool-aged child.
“It just made me realize how blessed I was. We were actually able to talk to him after, and he still had a smile on his face even with everything that he was going through,” she said.
“We hope that this experience has changed their perspective on what ‘a typical homeless person’ looks like and helped them understand that homelessness does not define who a person is and what he/she is capable of,” Morrison said, regarding the contest winners.
“The students also learned how to stretch their own personal talents and to appreciate their peers’ talents as well. They also seemed to gain an enhanced appreciation of the importance of their own homes, and what their parents and community’s support have added to their daily lives, by giving them love, support and opportunities,” said MJ Meenen, Homeless Children’s Education Fund development director.
During a lunch awards ceremony, Ellery read her essay, and the poster winners explained their designs. The students received $250 discounts on their academic tuition.
Michelle Kania said that the experience presented her and Ellery with an awareness of all the “good people doing good things” in the world. She cited the fact that Shepherd’s Heart provides meals for those in need, a worship center, shelter and warming facility.
“I was just amazed and this is just a slice. There are so many people doing so many good things out there and we only saw a slice. It’s just amazing.”
Ellery resides in Shaler with her parents, Michelle and Joseph.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.