For New York City high school senior Alexus Lawrence walking across the graduation stage and receiving her hard-earned diploma was a moment in time that signified perseverance. Lawrence—a Brooklyn College-bound graduate who was her school’s Class of 2019 valedictorian—was one of over 100 college-bound New York City seniors who were homeless while pursuing their education. According to CNN, the students were recently honored by the Department of Homeless Services for their hard work, dedication, and resiliency.
Homelessness amongst New York City youth has been an ongoing issue. A study conducted by the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students revealed that 1 in 10 students enrolled in schools are homeless. Many of their living situations are a result of the economic disparities that exist within the city and the widening gap between rent prices and household incomes. Aside from the financial hardships that they experienced with their families, several students say that they were bullied in school for being homeless; creating an additional obstacle towards completing their courses.
Despite the circumstances, the students put their focus on education in an effort to change their lives. Many of the teens who were celebrated at the ceremony are headed to prestigious schools including Cornell University and New York University. “The strength and resilience of these young people is inspiring,” New York Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “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.” In an effort to ensure that the students are equipped with the tools needed for the next chapter in their education, the Department of Homeless Services provided them with laptops and duffle bags filled with dorm essentials.
The city is working to combat homelessness amongst students. In 2018, NYC allocated funds for the creation of programs to support children who were in unstable housing situations.