When you think about how teenagers stereotypically spend their weekends, sleep, video games and malls spring to mind. Cardboard and duct tape probably do not enter the picture.
But a group of community-minded students at Mount Pleasant High School are collecting those two items for an event designed to raise awareness of and help for the homeless among us.
Interact is Rotary's service club for young people up to age 18. At Mount Pleasant High School, the Interact Club helps groups like Relay For Life and Locks of Love and sponsors an annual blood drive.
In recent years, president Carolyn Powell said, their focus has been on helping Habitat Cabarrus, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Right now they're preparing for what Powell calls "the crowning event of the year": Shack-A-Thon.
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Shack-A-Thon is sponsored by Youth United, a Habitat for Humanity organization for young people. It encourages them to advocate for the homeless and allows them to participate in Habitat's mission in age-appropriate ways.
The purpose of Shack-A-Thon is mainly to raise awareness (and a little money) and give young people a taste of what it is to be homeless.
Julie Love, faculty adviser for the Mount Pleasant Interact Club, explained how Shack-A-Thon works. Groups of teenagers arrive with loads of cardboard and duct tape - the only building materials allowed - and must construct their shack within a time limit. Last year, Love said, the group had five hours to complete their home for the night.
Powell said they didn't start building with a plan in mind, instead using a more organic process. The result sounds impressive. Both Powell and Love boasted about some of the features of their shack: a roof, doors, patio, sink and recliner.
After construction (and before sleeping), students will take part in contests and entertainment throughout the night.
Shack-A-Thon is a competition, and this year, Powell said, the Interact Club is looking forward to sending even more members and building an even better shack. But first, they need to do a little fundraising.
Love explained that the club makes a $50 donation to Habitat Cabarrus for each student who participates.
To raise that money, the Interact Club plans to solicit donations from local businesses. They're also planning some fundraisers at school. Last year they sold strips of cardboard to their fellow students, who then decorated them for the club to hang in their shack.
Though Shack-A-Thon is a night of fun for young people, Carolyn Powell said, it also makes a point about homelessness. It's shocking to think some people don't have even cardboard to sleep under, she said, and she realizes how blessed she is to have a home.
It's encouraging to see teenagers care about their community, and great to see that they can have so much fun in the process.