More than 100 students recently graduated from high school in New York City despite the challenges of being homeless. They are now preparing to enroll in prestigious colleges, such as Cornell University, 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 statement. “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.”
The teens have been honored in the past week by the city’s Department of Homeless Services. Aside from the recognition, they have each received a bag with useful things for college as well as a laptop.
Alexus Lawrence, one of the students, graduated valedictorian and plans to attend Brooklyn College. She dreams to become a pediatrician one day.
“I’m just thinking of how far I’ve come,” Lawrence told ABC 7. “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, works as a chef for a local hospital. They were renting an apartment before but when the rental fees increased, they were forced to move in the homeless shelter.
“They’re homeless because of the economics, the gap between rents and income,” NYC Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said.
Out of the 1.1 million students attending schools in NYC, 114,658 are homeless, according to the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students.
In line with that, the city has been making efforts to fight homelessness, especially among students. The Department of Education announced last year that it is investing $12 million into programs that support students that are in temporary housing, including hiring school based-community coordinators to help them.