A GROUP of Kiama's future leaders recently had a first-hand glimpse of the hardship experienced by homeless youth, while raising funds for those in need.
Students hosted a Friday night sleepover at Kiama High School earlier this month, raising about $500 to help homeless youth.
Kiama Municipal Council, in partnership with Kiama Community College and with funding from the NSW Office of Communities, are delivering the Youth Belonging Project.
It was introduced in Kiama in early 2013.
It aims to support young people to be more involved in their area's decision-making, to influence what youth-friendly events and activities happen throughout the Kiama area, and develop their skills as young aspiring community leaders.
It includes two program streams.
A community-based program has been designed to give young people the skills and support they need to be involved in decision-making with community organisations such as sports clubs, arts and cultural groups, businesses or other community leaders.
A school-based model was also introduced this year, based at Kiama High.
This entails working with the school's year 10 students.
Council Youth Belonging Project co-ordinator Bonnie Hittmann said the program involved students developing and hosting an event or activity that met a need within the community.
They opted to host the youth sleepover to raise funds to help those seeking to eradicate youth homelessness.
About 25 students, ranging from years 8 to 10 took part.
Ms Hittmann said the students planned, co-ordinated and delivered the event, from which all proceeds would go to not-for-profit organisation CareSouth.
She said students would also be meeting with CareSouth about establishing a greater partnership in the future.
"Students are also looking at another event in Kiama - a youth forum to engage young people, and help inform council's next 10-year community strategic plan," Ms Hittmann said.
"They've been an incredibly mature bunch of students, an impressive group of young people.
"If these are our future leaders, I think we're in good hands. "
Year 10 students Tasman Fredericks and Casey-Dee Bradbury both participated in the sleepover.
"People in Kiama, [especially] kids at our school, they don't know the definition of homeless . . . they don't know how lucky they are," Tasman said.