Removing The Barriers To Higher Education For Homeless And Foster Youth (Opinion)

Friday, June 15, 2012

At this time of year we hear heartwarming stories about homeless kids who manage to graduate from college. Those kids are few and far between.

Although many states have programs in place where youth in foster care who graduate on time and with decent grades are supposed receive support to go on to college, fewer than 3 percent of kids who have been in foster care make it into college. Of those who do manage to get accepted into college, only about 3 percent successfully graduate with degrees.

I know firsthand many of the barriers homeless kids and youth from foster care face in education. I was one of those invisible kids -- sexually abused, randomly beaten by my parents and stepsiblings. My role models were mobsters and motorcycle gang members in Las Vegas. I suffered every kind of abuse imaginable at the hands of those charged with keeping me safe. I was wrongly in special education classes until a caring teacher figured out when I was 13 that I just needed glasses.

By age 15, I was homeless. Worried about losing my spot on the football team, I kept my homelessness a secret from my high school and couch surfed. I juggled football and track practices, jobs and homework and graduated number 11 out of a class of 700 students.

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