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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