Two amazing and inspirational women!

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and civil rights activist from 1900 until she died in 1955. She was born in 1875 as a child (one out of 17 children) to former slaves in South Carolina where she worked in cotton fields growing up. She always believed that education was the key to her success and “racial advancement” so she walked miles every day to attend an all-black school. After her hard work, she received a scholarship to Scotia Seminary School for girls in North Carolina. She went on to attend Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago. With her strong believes about education, she founded Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Florida in 1904. She was and educator and school principle. Once the school grew large enough, it merged with a boys school and became known as Bethune-Cookman College. Eventually, she went on to found the National Council of Negro Women. She worked closely with President Hoover and Roosevelt as a minority activist for African-Americans. After her passing, she was even inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her amazing and extensive work as a civil rights activist for the greater African-American community.

An initial problem that Mary McLeod Bethune faced was in her transition from childhood to adolescence. It was ultimately up to her to put in the effort and attend school. Because her family had 17 children, was poor, and was not raised with high ideals of education; she was pretty much on her own to make herself successful. She had to walk miles by herself to and from school every day. Along with picking cotton in the fields and doing family chores, she needed to study and do homework. Her self-discipline paid off and her straight A grades got her a scholarship to attend college. Her mindset of “racial advancement” and the thought of bettering herself and ultimately her race and community is what drove her determination to find a way to put her through school.

In her time as an educator, she faced another issue of recruiting students to attend her all-girls school. She had to find the funds to run the school and get families on board with her educational program. This was difficult for her, because most of the girl’s parents were uneducated, and education was not valued in their household. She had to convince people that education was the key to “racial advancement.” She used this slogan to appeal to families and hoped that the promise of a better future for their children would drive them to enroll their girls in school. She really started a large spread of the education as a valued entity in the African-American population.

Liz Murray

Liz Murray is an amazing woman who grew up in negative conditions, she did an interview in 2010 and told her story of how she grew up with drug-addict parents and went on to attend and graduate Harvard. At the age of 15, her family became homeless. She and her sister used to split a tube of toothpaste for meals and were forced to go to school looking dirty and smelly. She was bullied so much, that she decided to drop out. She explained that her parents spent all of their welfare money on heroin and cocaine. Her mother and father both died of AIDS at this time from the needles she used to inject drugs. Her sister lived in shelters and on friend’s couches, where Liz was sleeping on park benches and Subway trains. After seeing her mother and father waste their lives away, she decided at the age of 17, she reached out to a former teacher in the hopes of turning her life around. She was able to complete 4 years of high school in only 2. Her teacher saw great potential and took her to visit Harvard. She received a scholarship, attended and ultimately graduated. Liz now works as a motivational speaker and author about resisting drugs and pushing through hard times.

One hardship that Liz had to overcome was getting out of the mindset that her parent’s drug abuse was normal and acceptable. Because she had grown up with it her whole life, it was difficult for her to see that there was any other way to life. Instead of falling into the same habits of her parents, she learned a big lesson from their deaths that their way of living didn’t necessarily have to be her way of living. I think this is a very important step that homeless students have to take. They must realize that the reason why they got into their bad situation doesn’t mean that it has to be their situation forever. They shouldn’t accept poverty, drugs, or homelessness as an answer or acceptable lifestyle.

Another hardship she had to overcome was making her transition from high school to Harvard. There was not a lot of information about this transition in the article that was written about her, and I’m sure she explains it in detail in her book, but Liz must have overcome huge financial obstacles to attend an Ivy League school. Her grades must have been impeccable, her application outstanding, and her motivation enduring. Along with this, it must have been very hard to leave her sister behind while she attended school. I’m sure her sister was jealous and maybe even resentful of her motivation and her success. Liz’s decision to leave and continue her education may have caused her to lose the only family she had left. However, when it came down to it, bettering herself was the most important thing she could have done. Her parents dragged her down with her, and she could no longer afford to be dragged down even further by her sister’s lack of motivation.

These two women are very strong-minded. It is difficult to take a leap of faith and try to succeed at something when you feel like all odds are against you, and you have extremely limited resources. In both cases, they had to dissociate themselves from their family’s values and lifestyle. At some point, they had to determine that their parent’s way of living was not their way of living, and it was unacceptable to them. Another theme that occurred in both stories was the aftermath. Once both women graduated college, they went on to motivate and help many other people in their endeavors. They didn’t graduate and become doctors or lawyers (occupations that would ensure individual success,) but they pursued careers in which they were able to spread awareness and make a change in the world to help better the stigma against poverty, homelessness, and drug-addiction as a black hole where dreams go to die. 

Overcoming the cycle of poverty

By: Lia Musumeci

Oprah Winfrey was born into and grew up in poverty. Her single working mother could not provide her with the necessary support so they ended up moving frequently in search of employment. In school, Oprah was often teased because of her life of poverty. In spite of all the ridicule she heard from her classmates and her impoverished lifestyle, in high school Oprah worked extremely hard. Her performance in the high school honors program earned her a transfer to a more challenging school. Oprah continued to work to maintain her full scholarship while working part time at a grocery store. She hid her money from her mother so it could be saved to pay for her room and board. Throughout all the struggles and homelessness, Oprah came out on top. She is now one of the most successful and well-known women of this century. As Oprah says, “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength” and “For everyone of us that succeeds, its because there's somebody there to show you the way out.”

Michael Oher was born into a life of poverty. His mother was a drug addict and his father spent much of his life in prison. Along with his eleven other siblings, he grew up spending time in and out of foster homes and living on the streets. Michael struggled through elementary and high school but remained persistent. Football, finally, gave him a way out of his impoverished life style. After being admitted to a private school due to his athletic skills, Michael started to receive the assistance he needed. Then, it was his good fortune to be adopted by a family with children attending the same school; Michael’s life began to change. Although he suffered through a harsh childhood, Michael went on to graduate from college and play football in the NFL. He has won many awards and has become one of the most well known football players to this day. “Don't ever allow yourself to feel trapped by your choices. Take a look at yourself. You are a unique person created for a specific purpose." “Your gifts matter. Your story matters. Your dreams matter. You matter.” –Michael Oher

Both Oprah Winfrey and Michael Oher faced many challenges on their way to success. Overcoming childhood struggles and family poverty were among the first steps to reaching this success.  They had to find the motivation to get out of bed each day and go to school even though they had slept the night outside, or had not had a meal to eat, or were sick from being exposed to the cold. Persistence is the key to success.

Throughout their school days, both Oprah and Michael were teased at school for their inadequate clothing and lack of insufficient shelter. They were the odd ones out and were ostracized for being caught in circumstances that were beyond their control. These circumstances often cause students to attempt to hide their underprivileged life but Michael and Oprah continued to forge on tirelessly.

The two main strategies that allowed these people to become successful were their hard work in school, and their access to necessary support. Without continuing on in their education, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Oher would have had limited opportunities. Throughout this time, it was often difficult for them to get enough food to live day to day, let alone go to class each day. However, if they did not conquer this time of extreme difficulty and hardship, who knows how long their impoverishment would have continued. College not only taught them important life skills, but also shaped their interests into careers. Along with Michael Oher and Oprah Winfrey there are many other well known actors, singers, politicians, talk show hosts, activists, entrepreneurs and more that were born into or experience a time of poverty and ended up being successful.

There are also people in our everyday communities that have experienced the same struggles. These people may not be as well known but most likely, everyday you encounter a student or person trying to lift themselves out of their current circumstances and you fail to pay attention to them. Sometimes you miss them because some of these people are trying to conceal their situation and blend into the crowd. Due to all the stigmatizing that goes along with homelessness or impoverishment, people sitting among you may be afraid to expose their struggles. They do not want to be looked upon or criticized. The truth is that, although there are people that fit the mold of the stereotype, there are also people who are trying very hard to dig themselves out of a hole but they just don't have the resources. This is where we come in. Homes for Students of Higher Education provides services, support, and encouragement to all who are in this situation. We would like to end the stigmatism of homelessness so that college students will feel free to express their difficulties and ask for help. We are promoting the importance of a college education for future successes and would like to broaden this opportunity to more underprivileged individuals. In writing this, I hope to encourage students who are struggling to look to us or other organizations for support, that people will cease to think of the homeless as lazy, and that people with the ability to provide financial support will help us in assisting those less fortunate.

If you would like to take part in this organization there are many ways small and large that you can help. First, liking us on our Facebook page or twitter will give us a larger platform to spread our message. Contact us if you are interested in donating, volunteering, or just passing the word on. 

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Awesome!! Other programs stepping up to help

Program helps homeless Tacoma college students off streets

By: ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News 6/27/13


A new pilot program by the Tacoma Housing Authority aims to increase college graduation rates and get homeless students off the streets.

A couch, a car or a shelter is what hundreds of Tacoma Community College students call home.

“There is not a lot of low cost housing in the Tacoma area,” said Shema Hanebutte, Dean of Counseling and Advising.

Most end up dropping out because of their living situations.

“Overwhelmingly, students that were surveyed said housing was an issue. It causes them to not take as many classes as they want, it causes them to think about not completing,” said Michael Power, Manager of Educational Programs.

The “Tacoma Community College Housing Project” will offer students in need rental assistance during their enrollment through graduation. They must attend full-time and have no felonies on their record.

“Yesterday I almost quit,” said Carolyn Jones, a student studying to become a paralegal.

Jones, 45, lost her job because of an injury and was broke with three daughters to feed. She’s been staying at a church shelter the last 10 months.

“A lot of my classmates have no clue,” she said.

According to Jones, studying becomes impossible with the stress of not having a permanent place to live.

“I go to sit down to read a book and all I see is homeless. There are words on the paper but I see homeless,” said Jones.

“From elementary school through Tacoma Community College, there are a significant number of students who don’t have a fair chance to succeed because they’re homeless,” said Michael Mirra, Tacoma Housing Authority Executive Director.

A similar program at McCarver Elementary, where 9 out of 10 students come from poverty saw big results. After two years, the student turnover rate dropped dramatically from 179% to 4%.

“I need help, pride went out the window months ago,” said Jones.

Jones plans to apply for the program and already knows the first thing she’ll do if she gets housing.

“I’m probably going to lay in the middle of the floor and do little snow angels, just lay on the floor and flop around,” she said.

Program applications go out in July for the upcoming fall semester. Anyone interested should contact TCC’s student services department.


A big problem but EVERY story is unique

College campuses see rise in homeless students

By: Lexy Gross, USA TODAY College 10/21/2013

"Though hard data are lacking, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid estimates that there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide."

When Tina Giarla finished her first semester at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., she didn't worry about getting home during winter break or buying new winter clothes.

She worried about where she would live for the next month, and where she would live once she returned to school.

Giarla is one of thousands of homeless college students in the U.S. struggling to find a place to live.

But the situation isn't new to her — Giarla has been an "unaccompanied youth" since her father died in 2007 and her mother was consistently in and out of jail. During her senior year, Giarla lived with her best friend and her family until graduation.

She lived on campus at Salem State until her resources ran out and she couldn't afford housing anymore.

"It felt like my past was just creeping up on me again," Giarla says. "I worked two-and-a-half jobs and went to school full-time. I had to save extra money to rent a hotel in the case of an emergency so I wouldn't have to go to a shelter. It wasn't a comfortable feeling."

She currently takes care of her grandfather and lives in his house in Salem.

"I didn't get to enjoy the college experience," Giarla says. "I had to make sure I was working and had a roof over my head. My primary focus was my education."

The problem

Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) says she believes the number of homeless students has increased over the last few years.

But she isn't sure, partly because there isn't sufficient national data.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid tells the NAEHCY that there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide.

Since colleges are not required to keep track of their homeless students, the FASFA form is the only significant data available.

According to the NAEHCY, many homeless students trying to go to college don't receive enough financial aid because they can't provide information about their parents or guardians on the form. Several pieces of legislation have helped remove the barriers between homeless students and financial aid, such as the recent Higher Education Act.

This legislation allows students to apply for federal aid without parental information or a signature. The act also allows financial aid administrators to designate a student as independent in extreme circumstances.

Duffield says the struggling economy is part of the reason behind college homelessness.

"Parents tend to start focusing resources on younger kids, and sometimes that can lead to abuse and neglect," she says. "Sometimes they just can't take care of them anymore."

"But for most students, they haven't had that support their whole lives," Duffield says.

The solution

Colleges across the nation are starting programs to help homeless students on campus.

At UCLA, if a student is affected by an economic crisis, the Economic Crisis Response Team will take measures to help a student stay in school. The team provides help in the form of meal vouchers, scholarship information and emergency financial aid assistance.

The NAEHCY also awards scholarships to students and assigns them a case manager to help them through college. The association also focuses on policies that help raise awareness among financial aid administrators.

Duffield says she thinks colleges are becoming more aware of the problem by offering counseling and starting programs such as on-campus food banks. In Stony Brook, N.Y., students who can't afford meal plans and don't qualify for food stamps can use their food pantry.

Giarla says she would've nearly given up if she hadn't reached out to counselors and professionals on campus. She urges colleges around the nation to become aware of their homeless students and reach out to them and offer support.

"There aren't enough services readily available or known, it's almost as if it doesn't exist," she says. "That makes it more likely to have an abundance of homeless students. It should be a lot more than just receiving money for basic costs."

Giarla plans on using her situation to help raise awareness of the growing homeless population at universities nationwide.

As a business management major, she wishes to pursue a career in advocacy against homelessness, and hopefully persuade legislatures to make a change in higher education.

"My experience keeps me going, it's made me who I am," she says. "These are the cards I was dealt and I have to play them in a strategic way."


Eye opening article that ignited the fuel driving our passion......

Homeless college students seek shelter during breaks

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) by Blake Ellis 12/10/13

They may have dorm rooms to sleep in during the school year, but many college students are technically homeless -- with no place to call home when classes aren't in session.

Jessie McCormick, a senior at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been homeless since running away right before her senior year of high school. Financial aid covers about 85% of her tuition and housing, and odd jobs that pay minimum wage, like helping out at the bookstore and setting up special events, pay for the rest.

McCormick was shocked to learn, however, that her housing isn't covered during campus breaks. Instead, she must pay a fee of $12 to $24 a night (depending how far in advance the request is made), which she can't always afford. Over Christmas, the school shuts down completely and no one can stay on campus -- not even for a fee.

During breaks, McCormick has slept outside on campus, signed up for free, school-sponsored community service trips or stretched her budget to pay the fee when she can stay on campus. Meanwhile, international students and in-season athletes are able to stay on campus during breaks other than Christmas for free.

In October, McCormick launched a petition urging Aquinas to provide free housing to homeless students during breaks. Even though she will graduate soon, she said she knows of at least nine other students who don't have homes to return to this Christmas. Her petition has already received more than 100,000 signatures, including some from students at other colleges who say they too are homeless.

A spokeswoman at Aquinas said McCormick's efforts have prompted it to examine its policies and talk with other schools and experts about the best way to provide options for homeless students. Until a solution is found, the school will work with students individually, and McCormick will be provided a hotel room to stay in this Christmas. Aquinas says that so far, only one student (other than McCormick) has indicated they need housing this Christmas and the school has offered that person a hotel room as well.

"We believe that this is a problem that small colleges must address," the school said in a statement. "In the interim, we are committed to making housing arrangements for any of our homeless students who need it this year."

College homelessness is a serious issue that is often overlooked, says Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

"There's an assumption that if you're homeless, you're so focused on basic needs like food and shelter that school isn't a concern," said Duffield. "But for these youth, education is the answer -- the jobs that are available don't pay good wages if you don't have a degree, so [education] is the only way out of their situation."

There's no concrete estimate for the number of homeless college students nationwide, but 58,158 college applicants indicated that they were homeless on federal financial aid forms for the 2012-13 academic up 8% from 53,705 in the previous year, according to federal data Duffield obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. That number is likely understated, however, since some people may be staying in a car or motel and don't realize they are technically homeless, or don't want to admit to it, says Duffield.

California State University, Long Beach, said it doesn't include breaks when calculating the cost of housing for students, since most students don't want to stay on campus. Students can apply to remain on campus during breaks but must pay a fee of between $45 and $400 (depending on the break and when the request is made).

The school wouldn't comment on Moraga's situation citing privacy laws, but it said it will work with any student to help them find housing during breaks if they need it -- whether that means connecting them with a local shelter, waiving the fee for staying on campus or giving them money to pay the fee. Moraga was embarrassed to come forward and explain to the school he was homeless, however.

While many colleges address this issue on a case-by-case basis, some schools are tackling it head on. Western Michigan University, for example, launched a financial aid and outreach program in 2008 for students who have been in foster care or are homeless for other reasons, and it allows them to stay on campus for free during breaks.

And more could follow.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington recently introduced legislation to Congress that would amend the Higher Education Act and require colleges to "develop a plan to assist homeless and foster youth to access housing resources during and between academic terms."

The bill would also require colleges to provide a point of contact for homeless students, and would mandate that schools ask questions about homelessness in college applications so they can help them get access to financial aid.

"[The legislation] reduces some of the incredible barriers that homeless and foster care youth face to make a better life through higher education," said Senator Murray.


Check out the actual article here: