Alexa Epitropoulos and the other students of "Will Work for Food" helped the homeless create a newspaper in 36 hours.
Sept. 23, 2013
When Alexa Epitropoulos was accepted into the South Florida Society of Professional Journalists' "Will Write for Food" program, the Flagler College student learned much more than just how to put a newspaper together.
Epitropoulos, managing editor of the Gargoyle, Flagler College’s online student newspaper, was one of 21 student journalists from around the nation accepted to the program that takes place each year at a South Florida homeless shelter. There, students spend the Labor Day weekend producing an issue of the Homeless Voice, the nation's second-largest homeless newspaper.
Students like Epitropoulos researched, reported, wrote and shot all video for the upcoming special issue and website in a mere 36 hours.
Upon arrival at the shelter, Epitropoulos learned of the struggle with alcoholism that many in the shelter faced and immediately decided to write an article on the topic. She spoke with many residents at the shelter and discovered that, although some of them were recovering, a vast majority of them weren’t.
“One woman had never struggled with alcoholism until she was in the shelter because it drove her to desperation,” said Epitropoulos. “She had lost everything—her job, her family, her stability in life. Many at the shelter were drinking themselves to death and no one could do anything about it. That was the real story.”
The most significant moment of the weekend came when Epitropoulos sat down to speak with one particular resident.
“She was incredibly sweet and didn’t shy away from the questions I asked,” the communication major explained. “She introduced me to other residents and opened up about her life. It showed me they’re not that different from you or me. As the programs founder, Michael Koretzky said, we’re better off than them, but not better than them.”
After gathering their stories, the students spent the remainder of their time in a makeshift newsroom, which Epitropoulos described as, “stuffy, cramped and incredibly loud.” But through determination and a lot of hard work, the group was able to meet their goal of creating a newspaper for the homeless in just under 36 hours. Stressful circumstances and all, Epitropoulos said she is happy she participated in the program.
“I learned lessons as a writer and an editor throughout the day, but more importantly, I learned something about myself and those individuals who are less fortunate than I am,” she said. “We were able to learn from each other and help each other.”