YONKERS, N.Y. -- Before Liam Tobin volunteered with the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP), he, like many others, lacked understanding about homeless people.
Tobin, 14, is a freshman at Loyola High School in New York City, whose worldview was changed when he, along with 28 of his peers, volunteered with YSOP to learn about hunger and homelessness in New York City as part of a school-required service project.
On Dec. 20, 2013, Tobin and his classmates prepared and served a full dinner to a group of homeless women. The student were also given the opportunity to sit down and talk to the women about their experiences.
As he got to know more and more of the women, Tobin realized his negative views of homeless people were incorrect.
"I started talking to them, and I realized they weren't much different from me," he said. "They've made a few mistakes in their lives, but they are no different than I am. It's unfair they ended up in this situation."
The students spent the next day volunteering at five soup kitchens in the Bronx and Brooklyn to observe how homelessness affects families.
"Seeing little children be able to get a meal when they otherwise wouldn't was a really fun and meaningful experience," he said.
At the end of the event, Tobin walked away with a refreshed perspective.
"I think the biggest lesson I learned is that all people are the same - even if we have more opportunities than they have or live a better lifestyle. We're all the same and deserve the same things," he said.
In the future, he plans to actively seek service opportunities outside of school, and hopes to continue working with the homeless.