A group of homeless students were honored on Thursday night in New York City for graduating high school despite their adverse circumstances.
NYC’s Department of Homeless Services honored more than 100 high school graduates who successfully made it through school while homeless. Each of the students received a laptop and a duffel bag full of college supplies. Some of the graduates are on their way to renowned local colleges including Cornell, New York University and Stony Brook University, CNN reports.
“The strength and resilience of these young people is inspiring,” New York Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio said in a news release. “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.”
One of the honorees, Alexus Lawrence, was her high school’s valedictorian and plans to attend Brooklyn College next year where she hopes to one day become a pediatrician. Her father, Henry, works as a chef at a local hospital, but was forced to move his family into a homeless shelter after their rent increased.
“I’m just thinking of how far I’ve come,” Lawrence told WABC. “You have your head down because it’s shameful; some people may bully you if they knew you lived in the shelter system.”
One local social worker addressed the economic issues plaguing many families in NYC.
“They’re homeless because of the economics, the gap between rents and income,” NYC Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks told WABC.
Data shows that 114,658 students are homeless in New York City, according to the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students.