It was the summer before Hope’s senior year of high school. She had had a tough time earning high marks during her first three years of high school, but this year, she resolved, would be the year that changed everything. She saw on the horizon the prospect of transferring to a school where she knew that she could succeed, and the possibility of college. She felt ready to improve her GPA and earn her high school diploma. But her plans came to a halt the moment she realized her family had been evicted.
“I was in panic mode,” she says.
But this was not the first challenge her family had navigated. Hope was born in Tanzania. Her father had passed away from malaria when she was two years old. Her mother, whose formal education stopped before high school, worked to provide for Hope and her younger brother. When Hope was eight, her family migrated to the US to find better opportunities. They stayed in Boston for a period, and then moved up and down the east coast before settling in DC.
“The first couple people I called were Marie and Claudia, and I was like, ‘Guys I can’t come in to work today because we’re getting evicted,’” -Hope
After losing their home, Hope’s family moved into a motel across the street from where they had been living. Then, a friend of a friend opened their basement to Hope’s family. The homeowner’s family showered in the morning. Hope’s family showered at night. The two families rotated cooking duties at dinnertime.
Not many people knew what Hope was experiencing at the time. But she did feel comfortable telling staff at Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), where she had been participating in Second Nature, a summer youth employment program within LAYC.
“The first couple people I called were Marie and Claudia (staff on LAYC’s Community Wellness team) and I was like, ‘Guys I can’t come in to work today because we’re getting evicted,’” says Hope.
LAYC staff quickly mobilized to connect her with housing support. While Hope’s mother figured out temporary living arrangements, LAYC staff kept Hope engaged in activities and on-track to attain her goal of attending college.
With housing in place, Hope started her senior year at a new school. She maintained a high GPA and won scholarship money to help pay for college. Through hard work and support from staff at LAYC, she secured a college starter kit offered from the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education that equipped her with a laptop, backpack, towels, and everything she needed to start her first college semester on the right foot. This summer, Hope participated in an internship with the DC Prevention Center (DCPC) for Wards 1&2, helping the team build partnerships with schools and places of worship in the area. Through her internship she was able to meet new people, network, and learn about career paths.
Today, Hope’s family lives in a home that her mother secured through a rapid re-housing program. Hope just started her first year at Montgomery College where she is studying business. Ultimately, she wants to earn an MBA, with a focus on sustainability to guide businesses and organizations as they build plans to combat climate change. Her biggest dream is to one day purchase a house of her own.
A recent report from the National Center for Homeless Education found that about 1.4 million students enrolled in public schools across the U.S. were homeless during the 2016-2017 school year. Not included in that number are youth who left or were forced out of school, or young people like Hope whose families have lost access to housing after the school year ended.
Your support made it possible for Latin American Youth Center to welcome close to 700 young people through its doors this past summer. These young people engaged in programming ranging from college preparation, to information technology skill-building, to digital arts and media. But we know that there are many challenges that might be present in a young person’s life or happening at home that prevent them from transitioning from the summer to the start of school.
Your ongoing commitment to our youth makes it possible for LAYC to connect young people and their families with safe housing, enriching after-school programming, and in-classroom support so that they can focus on studying in school, making new friends, and figuring out their passions and interests. Please make a gift today to help youth like Hope in DC and Maryland make a smooth transition from the summer to the school year.