Student Feature Fridays

Heather Banak


This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Heather Banak who, along with a few friends and HHS faculty member Mr. Calais, created the Gimme Shelter CoffeeHouse, a benefit concert to raise money for the Y2Y Homeless Shelter in Framingham. This concert, which took place last week, was in its second year. The main hallway of the school was transformed with a stage and couches where people were able to enjoy some fantastic music performed by Heather, her friends and Mr. Calais.


By visiting Heather’s website (which she designed and created –, one can learn much more about Y2Y and why Heather is so passionate about the cause. “Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run overnight shelter, employs a youth-to-youth model to provide a safe and affirming environment for young adults experiencing homelessness. Y2Y guests have opportunities to collaborate with service providers, other youth experiencing homelessness, and student volunteers to create sustainable pathways out of homelessness and develop skills for long-term success. Y2Y provides opportunities for both guests and volunteers to become the next generation’s leading advocates for youth-driven solutions to homelessness.”

For more information on the shelter visit

Q: In our discussion you described homelessness as a prominent issue that does not often appear in the political landscape of campaigns. Can you explain your thinking on this issue a bit further?

A: Growing up near Boston I have always gone into the city often, and the amount of people asking for money or sleeping on the streets has always astounded me. Even more so, we are taught to ignore them, to pretend they aren’t there. A refusal to recognize that these people are in fact just that, people, doesn’t allow us to address the issue. Although it is seen in every city, even most towns, politicians and civilians alike simply choose to ignore the obvious problem facing people of all ages, gender, and ethnicity.

Q: How did your experience with the Dillard Teen Fellows program inspire you to give back to your community?

A: Diller Teen Fellows was a 15-month long experience in building a small community with my cohort of 20 kids (plus one coordinator and two junior coordinators). More than that, it is an experience in recognizing all the communities that we are in — Diller focused more on the worldwide and local Jewish communities but also focused on family, town community, friendships, workplace relationships, etc. We learned to appreciate all of the communities we are in, the issues they face, and how to give back to them in an impactful way. At the end of the program the fellows take all of the experiences and knowledge they have gained to complete and independent community service project, which inspired me to do even more.

Q: The Gimme Shelter Coffee House was a great marriage of your love of music and your desire to give back to the community. How did you go about creating this event?

A: This event was successful because of the help of my friends Eamonn Powers, Kate Guccione, Brady Wells, and my teacher Mr. Calais. To start, I met with Ms. Connoni about an open date on the school calendar. After that was settled, I set up the GoFundMe page, the website, and began to design the poster. Then Eamonn, Kate, and I attended a BMC meeting to propose the idea of them handling food, which they were more than happy to do. It was Mr. Calais’ idea to have the concert in the lobby, and he and Nikolai Anderson organized where we would get all of the furniture from. Once the website and poster were done, Eamonn, Kate, and I began advertising, one of the most important steps in the process. Throughout the weeks before the concert, Eamonn, Kate, Brady, Mr. Calais, AbbyRae Wells, and I were rehearsing and learning songs to perform. On the day of the concert, we had many students from the BMC and those who were not involved offer to help us set up the stage, the curtain, and all of the furniture, as well as help clean up afterwards. BMC sold food throughout and along with the GoFundMe page, we raised around $2,500.

Q: How did you find your passion for music and what advice would you have for others who have not found their passion yet?

A: I have played music all my life, and it has always brought me happiness. Like other passions of mine, my passion for music was found by exploring what I was interested in. I knew I loved music and learning to play and create new things, so I delved deeper into the world of performance, theory, and composition by taking lessons and classes on the subjects. My advice to those seeking their passions would be to try anything and everything. If you have an interest in something, be it sculpting, geology, or magic, take the time you can to explore it further. See what you can figure out on your own, then practice, ask for explanations, take classes, and don’t limit yourself to just one thing. My passions range from writing songs to balancing chemical equations, and I don’t intend to stop doing what I love in the future. Even if you can’t afford much time or money to enjoy what you are interested in, use anything you have to search, to explore, and to discover.