Students at the Community Academy Public Charter School wave to watchers of their Fannie Help the Homeless mini-walk held on November 5. Photo by Rhonda Green.

The kindergartners at the Community Academy Public Charter School Rand Campus had been preparing for the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Mini-Walk Program for a little more than a week by engaging in classroom discussions and creating art projects such as Help the Homeless posters and drawings. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until they returned from their mini-walk, which many of the youngsters regarded as a nature walk and “I spy” game, that they began to develop a more profound understanding of the cause.  

CAPCS requires uniforms, but on this day, in addition to their red shirts and khaki pants, the CAPCS family, including teachers, staff and students from preschool through fifth grade, stood united in their Fannie Mae Help the Homeless T-shirts.  

The 6th annual mini-walk began on Rock Creek Church Road, N.E., up Gallatin Street, through Fort Totten Metro Station and then up Riggs road. The smaller students waved at pedestrians and drivers as they marched, laughed and collected colorful leaves and pebbles on the way.  

“The students, because they’re so young, have no idea of the big impact they’re making by participating in the mini-walk,” said one of the Early Childhood educators, who asked that her name be withheld.  

When this particular kindergarten class returned to their classroom, there was a discussion about the students’ thoughts about the walk and their ideas on what it means to be homeless. One student commented, “The walk was too long, and I didn’t even see any homeless people.” Another student said, “I’m going to remind my friends not to laugh or make fun of homeless people when we see them on the street.”  

Engaged in a rather studious conversation at this point, this group of about 16 five and six-year olds came up with a number of interesting questions like, “what did they do to become homeless?” “why can’t they just find an apartment to live in?” and “why don’t people share with them?” One child suggested, “they can come to our school and we can share our food from the lunch room with them. We can share our puzzles with them and show them how to play on the monkey bars.”  

Whether these young people know it or not, their participation in the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Mini Walk is a program with a strong history of more than two decades—a program that has raised “more than $80 million for nonprofit organizations dedicated to raising public awareness, serving, preventing and ending homelessness in the D.C. metropolitan area,” according to Fannie Mae.  

The Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Program hopes that volunteer numbers will continue to climb. As one student from this kindergarten class announced, with his fellow classmates in agreement, “I’m going to walk again next year!”