Thank you for your time and your attention as you listen about an important topic – The EDUCATION of students experiencing homelessness. You’ve heard Joe’s statistics. Please remember that behind every number is a face. You’ve heard of the growing crisis within the school districts from Kate. That’s why we must continue to talk about this.
It’s why I’d like to give voice to one of those statistics. I outreach to students experiencing homelessness. When I sit with them, even though I can’t house them, they understand that I want them to succeed in school.
It’s tough for me to talk to kids when we all know that there are people who just don’t want to listen to their needs. When there are people who don’t care.
I’m here hoping you’re among the people who do care. And while this year marks 10 years I’ve dedicated to raising awareness for the EDUCATION for Students Experiencing homelessness, sadly, the conversations are still the same.
It is frustrating … in the education world, the community organization world, And the political world. Yet, we keep trying because the students need us.
I thought about how to speak for these kids, then I thought, I’ll just let one of the young people do it. Thank you for listening to their story.
I am 15. My parents don’t want me. They will tell you, tell the school people and other people they do want me. Of course they do! I just don’t want to follow the rules. My REALITY is that I am not allowed in the house. Not because I don’t follow the rules.
I am not allowed because I don’t want to be around the drinking and the yelling.
Apparently I cause the drinking and the yelling.
Remove me, problem solved.
I love school. Weird, right? The problem kid wants to be in school.
I was staying with a friend a couple of nights. A friend I met from work. He doesn’t live in my school district. I have to figure out how to get to school. Someone heard I was “couch surfing.” Another teenager who is not with their parents. They told me I could talk to someone and they’d help me get to school. Help me with a lot of things.
I didn’t want to talk to another person who was going to tell me if I just went home, I would be better off. One more person to tell me I am the problem.
I was introduced to this person when I went to the stay with that other kid. In a tent.
She said, “Hey. How can I help? What do YOU want?”
She didn’t make promises she couldn’t keep, like she’d find me a place to live. She did promise I could go to school. She did promise that I could play a sport if I wanted. She did promise to offer me two meals in school (breakfast and lunch). She promised me I would have transportation TO school from wherever I am. And she promised that she would listen to me.
Apparently she has a reputation among us unwanted teens. She says stuff. She doesn’t say what she doesn’t mean. She told me I have value. That I am worthy to have high expectations. And she would hold me to high expectations. She said she’d believe in me until I believe in myself.
She says that to all of us. I don’t believe her yet. But 2 others have told me it’s true. We will see. She doesn’t cut me any slack. Like ANY slack. I wanted to not go to school because I was really tired from work. I didn’t get to the van in time a couple of times.
She said, ok, how do we work this problem. What do I need.
I need sleep. I need to go to school. I need to be around friends. I need clean clothes. I need a freakin SHOWER. I NEED to be A KID. Well, she had answers for all of that.
SCHOOL. GET TO SCHOOL. The one place I want to be at. I can get my laundry done. I can get a shower. I can sleep in the nurse’s office during a free period. I am not being excused from things. I am being given options.
Choices. NO ONE gives a kid choices. She does. She also doesn’t allow excuses. I can be tired. I can not miss the van to school. Is it hard to be homeless, with parents who don’t want you? What do you think? Yes.
Do I want help, yes. Do I want to ask for help? NO. Because. I don’t want people to know I am a problem. But I need to tell people my story. Because if you don’t know about stories like mine, how would you know what is needed to help?
I want to talk to someone. But I don’t have insurance. My parents won’t sign anything that lets me talk to someone. Guess what? This person said I DO NOT NEED THAT. I CAN talk to someone. On my own!
I want my high school diploma. I want to be an electrician. By being identified as a homeless kid, I can get help to achieve my dream. My dream.
What do I want you to know? I want you to be willing to talk to me. Real talk. What can or can’t happen. I want you to work the problem. There are many problems. Do what she says. Talk about it and work the problem.
Also, I am NOT the problem. I am a solution. I am someone who will graduate. I am someone who can give you electricity when your electricity fails. One day.