Wardlaw-Hartridge Students Participate in Candlelight Vigil

Ali Reza, Nina Pangan, Danielle Coover, Stephanie Smyczek and Alam Merchant participated in a special candlelight vigil to honor the homeless on December 21. (Photo by Rudy Brandl of Fanwood)

EDISON — Five Wardlaw-Hartridge students – juniors Danielle Coover of Piscataway, Alam Merchant of Edison, Nina Pangan of Colonia and Stephanie Smyczek of Edison and sophomore Ali Reza of Carteret- participated in a candlelight vigil to recognize the homeless on Dec. 21, the first day of winter, at the Edison Municipal Building. Dawn Francavilla, Director of Student Life, has supervised the school’s support of the program, which is run through Catholic Charities. The school has participated in food drives, clothing drives and toy drives but this was the first year of the candlelight vigil.

“It’s really nice that we were able to participate in it,” Francavilla said. “It was great that the homeless were able to get respect and be recognized by the community. Some of these people didn’t even have a name. It was very sad but I think it’s really special that our kids took their time on break to do this. I would like to see us do this every year.”

The students who lit candles were touched by the experience.

“It was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful event I was inspired by the speakers who spoke at the vigil. They are such incredible and talented people. I realized people should never take the fact that they have a home for granted because there are so many people who do not have shelter. America is one country where homelessness can be ended, and I hope as a community we can come together and put an end to homelessness,” Coover said.

“It was a privilege to go to this candlelight vigil because of a very happy feeling was acquired when the five of us supported the homeless people and the homeless that have passed away,” said Merchant.

“Participating in the candlelight vigil was inspiring and a very emotional event. Hearing stories of people who once were and those who still are homeless was touching and unforgettable,” said Smyczek.

“It was touching to see former homeless families and people to step up in front of everybody. They showed that no obstacle can stand in their way to happiness. The program really made you feel thankful for what you have,” Pangan said.

“It was nice to know that we were helping people over the holidays,” Reza said.

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