Reflecting on high school trip to Washington, DC

Mary Kate McAlister, Covenant's summer intern in education, reflects on the high school youth trip to Washington, DC.

During our closing reflection with the Pilgrimage in DC, Covenant’s High School Youth was asked, “How did you use your hands and feet this week?” I feel quite certain that the first thought to run through minds was, “Well, we walked. A LOT.” Somewhere between seven and eight miles each day, in fact. 

What happened within those miles, though, gives me confidence that Covenant’s High School Youth were and are stewards of God’s grace and compassion — everywhere they go. Throughout the week, we worked with several organizations in DC while simultaneously learning about the systemic nature of poverty and the importance of involvement at both the grassroots level and political, government sponsored level.

At DC Central Kitchen, we spent hours in the back of an industrial kitchen chopping vegetables, breading chicken and packaging fruit in preparation for the over 5,000 meals served daily. At Charlie’s Place and Thrive DC, we served meals and enjoyed conversations with the many folks experiencing homelessness around DC.

The combination of these three service opportunities led many of us to think of how we might engage in similar outreach within our Charlotte community. The final organization we worked with was Project Transformation, who facilitates a literacy program for students during the summer months in order to maintain grade-level reading. There was a palpable joy within us all after reading alongside these students. While our mornings were spent with one of these aforementioned organizations, our afternoons were filled with experiential learning surrounding issues of poverty and homelessness, as well as the advocacy and activism linked to such issues.

We heard from members of the National Coalition for the Homeless, toured the city with an eye for gentrification among other systemic changes with negative affects, participated in a writing workshop with a formerly homeless poet who encouraged us to slow down, be aware and be grateful. And finally, we met with the PCUSA Office of Public Witness, whose office building sits right beside the Supreme Court of the United States and across from the Capitol.

Having heard the stories of several formerly homeless individuals, I think it’s safe to say this group looks upon others (however they may be experiencing life) with new eyes and invested hearts.

These experiences continue living by the images that remain with me — two students sitting on the corner of K Street NW and New Hampshire Avenue, speaking with a man named Mark. Another, fist bumping a man by the CVS outside Dupont Circle, saying, “Hey! I saw you yesterday. Good to see you again!” One, resting her hands behind a young girl’s, supporting a storybook that was just a little too big for tiny hands. There are more images, and because these are only my own, I hope you will take time to ask a student what images or stories remain with them after our week in DC — we have many. 

Thank you to all at Covenant for holding us in your prayers. We are grateful for a week well spent and for God’s abundant blessings on our lives and relationships with one another.