They woke up each morning in a New York City homeless shelter, but they didn’t let adverse circumstances block their path to success.
Last Thursday night, the city’s Department of Homeless Services honored more than 100 high school graduates who made it through school while homeless. The teens are now heading to college, including Cornell, New York University and Stony Brook University.
“The strength and resilience of these young people is inspiring,” New York Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio said in a news release. “And it is this same strength and resilience that has prepared them for anything and will propel them forward as they join our next generation of future leaders.”
From homeless shelters to college dorms
Each of the students received a laptop and a duffel bag full of college essentials.
One of the honorees, Alexus Lawrence, was her high school’s valedictorian and plans to attend Brooklyn College next year. She dreams of becoming a pediatrician.
“I’m just thinking of how far I’ve come,” Lawrence told CNN affiliate WABC. “You have your head down because it’s shameful; some people may bully you if they knew you lived in the shelter system.”
Lawrence’s father, Henry, is a chef for a local hospital but was forced to move the family into a homeless shelter when their rent rose.
“They’re homeless because of the economics, the gap between rents and income,” NYC Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks told WABC.
Data shows that 114,658 students are homeless in New York City, according to the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students.
With 1.1 million students attending schools in the city, that means 1 in 10 is homeless, enough to fill Yankee Stadium twice, the group says.
New York City has been taking steps to curb homelessness, particularly among students. Last year, the Department of Education announced that it was investing an additional $12 million into programs supporting students living in temporary housing, which included hiring school-based community coordinators to help students with housing instability.