The news is full of agitprop against hordes of homeless people who are represent a plague on our society. There is no shortage of prejudgment that all homeless are socially feral, mentally ill or addicted to drugs. Two very special young homeless people have proved the propagandists wrong. They are being honored for getting through high school. Not only did they graduate, they graduated as valedictorians for their classes of 2014. A June 10 NBC News article reports that Rashema Melson finished high school while living in a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter with her mother and six siblings. She now has a full scholarship to Georgetown University.
Griffin Furlong is a homeless teen from Florida who will now be able to attend Florida State University. He was the valedictorian for his class at Florida Coast High School in Jacksonville and has friends who are raising money for his continued education.. According to a June 4 NBC News article, Furlong lost his mother when he was six years old and was an on-and-off homeless child.
On this day in 2013, Huffington Post has a story about Chelsea Fearce. She spent her high school years as a homeless teen. At times, she and her entire family slept in her mother’s car, yet she was the valedictorian for the class of 2013 at Charles Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia.
Sadly, the vast majority of homeless teens cannot continue through high school, let alone excel as the top students. They face challenges like malnutrition, sexual predation and violence. Many face terrible times in t juvenile justice systems that are nothing for this nation to boast about. At the most basic of “Catch 22” levels, not having a permanent home address can make it impossible to even register for school.
So what is being done for the homeless teens who struggle to get their high school diplomas? The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was included in Title X, Part C of the federal education statute. This federal program is supposed to make sure that homelessness does not keep children from progressing in school. It is a comprehensive program that tackles health, tutoring, research and much more to deal with the myriad of problems homeless children face.
However, each state administers the Title X program, which also includes the standardized testing debacle. As a result, teacher morale and job satisfaction continue to take a front seat in the news when the subject of Title X comes up.
The only real solution for the vast majority of homeless children, their parents and their siblings, is to get them into safe, stable housing. This so they can cancel the devastating effects of homelessness. This includes getting access to regular, steady school experiences. While there may not be many valedictorians, the realistic goal is to produce more high school graduates who can say that they were once homeless.