By sleeping out under the stars Friday, April 5, Bexley High School students say they will not only earn community service credit but also will learn the value of community.

The fifth annual Bexley Sleep Out will begin at 4 p.m. Friday and end at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Clifton Shelter House near the David H. Madison Bexley Community Pool, 2100 Clifton Ave. The event is free and open to the public, although participants are encouraged to make donations. Proceeds will benefit Huckleberry House, 1421 Hamlet St., which supports young people and families struggling with tough situations such as homelessness, substance abuse, poverty and violence, according to its website.

The Sleep Out will kick off Bexley Youth Service Week, a new event organized by the city of Bexley that encourages young people to get involved in community service, said Anna Schottenstein, a Bexley High School teacher who oversees the Bexley Sleep Out.

"This year, we've had 20 or 25 students working on it and planning it," Schottenstein said.

Many of the students who volunteer for the Sleep Out are members of an official student club that plans the event each year, learning how their efforts benefit the community, said high school juniors Ford Cowan and Claire Sapp.

"I've been involved since I was a sophomore," Cowan said. "It's one of the best choices I made in high school. It helps me to learn leadership skills and how to help others."

"You get a lot of experience in responsibility and how to lead others," Sapp said. "We also learn what it's like to be homeless."

The students have gathered donations from local businesses for raffle items and food.

"They're essentially running a nonprofit business," Schottenstein said. "They work with businesses and try to get them to donate to the event. This is on a small scale, but they're getting that experience. Knowing they have leadership skills and they can use them in the real world is something that will benefit them in the future."

Participating in the Sleep Out also helps the students understand the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness, Schottenstein said.

"It gives them a better perspective on the world," she said. "Last year, it was snowing and we were shivering by the fire. I said, 'Guys, this is one night of our lives. For some people, this is their life.' "

The Sleep Out will include a cookout with Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler, a movie marathon and other recreational activities.

The public may also donate blankets and toiletry items during the Sleep Out. To make cash donations, visit https://secure.qgiv.com/event/bexleysleepout.

For more information, email Schottenstein at Anna.Schottenstein@Bexleyschools.org.

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